Pastirma/Basturma for Beginners – Dry Curing Meat for Beginners

Let’s make pastirma (basturma). This dry cured meat comes to us from the Middle East and it’s absolutely incredible.

In today’s recipe We are going to mix it up a little and break from tradition using some modern techniques and appliances that we have available to use. With that being said I will tell you that traditional basturma is generally made in the winter time where it’s cured with salt and hung to dry in an open area till it’s firm. Then a spice coating called “chaman” is placed around the dried beef and rehung till the coating has completely dried.

This often produces a basturma that is very salty, dries unevenly, with a texture that is firm and chewy. This recipe will show you how to avoid those inconsistencies and make a perfectly seasoned cured beef that dries evenly to produce a velvety bite with the perfect texture.

First and foremost we will be addressing the meat and the seasonings. Traditional basturma uses the eye of round cut. This is a great lean cut for curing and drying but I personally find the eye of round a little chewy so we will be using the tenderloin for this project. What I typically do is trim the tenderloin to get rid of any silver skin and cut away any loose flaps of meat that might be hanging off the muscle. If you want to trim off the fat you can do that as well. I like to leave the fat on.. Once finished it’s time to cure the meat.

Curing and Drying

Curing the meat is all about time. Once you add the necessary salt and spices you simply need to wait long enough for those spices to penetrate the meat. Our goal is to have 100% penetration. The size of your meat will completely determine how long you leave it in your refrigerator. I found this great calculator that breaks it down for you. Click on the tab “Brining Time” and input the information. Be sure to add 20% to the answer so ensure that your cure gets fully penetrated. Bookmark atis page as you will certainly find it useful when you start dry curing lots of meat

Calculator for determining how long to cure your meat

We will be using a technique called the equilibrium cure. What this means is that 100% of the cure mix that we will be using will be added to the meat while it cures. This method allows us to perfectly season/cure our meat without any concern of over/under salting. What’s also great about this technique is that you can work at your own pace (meaning if you can’t get to the meat immediately and it needs to sit in the fridge a few more days you don’t need to worry about it becoming too salty). This is contrary to the alternative method called “Salt Boxing”. Salt boxing simply means you take a bunch of salt and encase your meat in it. We can talk about the 2 techniques in a different post.

Once our meat has been cured we begin the process of drying. Pastirma essentially goes through 2 different drying processes. During the first drying phase we will be regulating the drying by covering our meat in a Dry Aging Steak Wrap from the Sausage Maker. These sheets allow us to effectively dry our meat in our home refrigerator. They help control the moisture loss during the drying process and they help produce a soft and tender texture in our meat once it’s finished. These sheets are fairly large and should be cut to size.

ONE THING TO BE AWARE…. The sausage maker also makes sheets called “Dry Curing Wraps”. The “dry curing wraps” are primarily designed for meats that will be dried in a dry curing chamber. These sheets are micro perforated and allow for more “breathing”. In a home refrigerator the “dry curing wraps” tend to dry the meat out to fast (IMHO). So if you plan on using your home refrigerator for this project just be aware of the two options and choose the “Dry Aging Sheets”. Besides. You can also dry age your beef with the leftover trim for awesome steaks!!

Should you hang or lay your meat?

When it comes to drying this meat I often get the question, “Should we hang it or just lay it on a drying rack?” and for this project it really doesn’t matter. My refrigerator allows me to hang my meat (which I prefer) but if you don’t have that option you can simply lay it on a drying rack and it’ll be fine.

Things can get a little tricky once you add the spice coating and it is certainly easier to dry your pastirma at this step if you hang it, but if you can’t, here’s a few tips to get it to dry evenly (without making a crazy mess. The first option would be to lay your pastirma on a piece of wax paper. Every few days carefully flip the pastirma over so that both sides can dry evenly. Eventually, it will be completely dried and you can then enjoy. The second option would be to wrap your pastirma in 1 thin layer of cheese cloth and place back on your drying rack. Once it’s finished drying remove the cheese cloth and voila!!

Here are a few things you might find useful when making this recipe

I hope you enjoy this week’s video and recipe. If you give this a go be sure to let me know how your came out and if you have any questions ask away in the comment section below.

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Pastirma for Beginners

Turkish Charcuterie
Prep Time3 hrs
drying/curing time28 d
Total Time28 d 3 hrs
How much do you want to make? 1000 grams

Ingredients

Meat

For the Cure

For the Chaman Spice Coating

Instructions

  • Trim your meat so that you are left with a whole cylindrical piece. No flaps or loose pieces should be on your muscle. Remove the silver skin and remove the fat if you want a leaner pastirma/basturma
  • Weigh the trimmed meat and enter the weight in grams in the "How much do you want to make" section of this recipe.
  • Combine all of the "cure" ingredients and rub them onto your meat. Be sure to include 100% of all the cure spices. Place the meat in a bag and vacuum seal it (or a zip lock bag and remove as much air as possible).
  • Once your meat has been vac sealed place it in a tray with a heavy weight on top (to achieve a flattened look) Place this in your refrigerator for 4-7 days. (Please refer to the "Brining Time Calculator" for the exact time your meat needs to cure. Link in the post above. Be sure to turn the meat daily or every other day.
  • After your beef has been cured and you can remove it from the fridge. Blot off any excess liquid with a paper towel. You want the meat to be moist and tacky.
  • Place the cured beef onto a Dry Aging Steak Wrap. Be sure to trim the wrap so it fits your meat (save the trimmed pieces for other projects). Gently fold the wrap over the meat and press out any air pockets that you see. Secure with butchers twine. Weigh the meat and record the weight.
  • Place the meat in your home refrigerator on a wire rack (so you can get air flow on top and bottom) and let it stay in there till you lose 35% – 40% weight. 35% is a softer bite while 40% is a bit more firm.
  • After the appropriate weight has been lost it's time to prepare the spice coating. Combine all of the chaman (spice coating) ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add water till you achieve a paste like consistency. If you are using whole seeds you can crush in a morter & pestle or simply use a blender. The end result should be a smooth paste that's easily spreadable.
  • Remove the dry aging wrap from the cured beef. Next spread a thin layer of the spice paste (⅛ inch) all over your pastirma. Try to keep the spice paste as evenly spread as possible. You can smooth out the spice paste by dipping your fingers in some cool water and rubbing the paste to get a nice smooth finish.
  • After you have coated the pastirma, place the spice coated meat back into your home refrigerator for another 7-14 days. What you are looking for is your spice coating to completely dry out. If you added a thick layer of chaman (spice coating) this process will take longer.
  • Once your spice coating is completely dried it's ready to slice thinly and enjoy.

Equalizing the basturma (optional)

  • after your pastirma is finished you can equalize it by placing the dried meat in a vac sealed bag. Then place it in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. This will allow the moisture levels that are in your pastirma to equally redistribute throughout the meat. This often deepens the flavor and improves the texture of the final product.

Important Notes

  • The dry aging sheets can be quite fragile when they get wet so be sure the meat is moist when you place it on the wrap.
  • If you want to hang your pastirma in your refrigerator after you add the spice coating simply weave a vinyl coated paper clip through the top and this will give you a hanging point.
  • If you don't have a way to hang your pastirma (after you add the spice coating) in your refrigerator, then lay the spice coated pastirma on a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and turn every few days so that it dries evenly. Alternatively you can wrap it in 1 layer of cheese cloth and place on your wire rack.

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5 thoughts on “Pastirma/Basturma for Beginners – Dry Curing Meat for Beginners

  1. Johann
    Johann

    Hi Eric, thanks for posting this – I recall you mentioned earlier that you were working on adapting the prior pastirma recipe/method into a refrigerator method.

    Could you please go into some details regarding the initial (pre-chaman coating) drying period? In your first recipe you target 25% weight loss, then coat with the Chaman spice mixture. Here, though, you recommend 35-40% weight loss prior to coating with the Chaman.

    Then in both cases, once coated with the spices, the recommendation is similar – dry until the spice coating seems fully dried (here about 2 weeks and in the first recipe about 2-3 weeks).

    So I’m thinking this new recipe will result in a substantially drier final product? And why the initial step of drying is 35-40% vs. 25% in the original recipe.

    The reason I’m so interested is that I have a cured tenderloin in the dry aging wraps in the refrigerator right now which is at 23% weight loss.

    Thanks!

    1. Johann
      Johann

      Correction to my comment above; I didn’t read carefully enough. This recipe is 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator to dry once spice coated, vs. 2-3 weeks in the original drying chamber method. So perhaps in the original method, the additional ~ 1 week drying time once spice coated makes up for the overall difference in water loss?

      Thanks!

      1. Eric
        Eric

        The time schedule is just a guideline. Remember we are targeting a goal. In this case it’s a completely dried spice coating. Depending on how thick your coating is or how your fridge operates it make take more time or less. Just keep your eye on the goal and all will work out.

    2. Eric
      Eric

      It’s not too complicated. The main reason is the lowered humidity environment with the increased air flow. If you add the coating at 25% the coating will dry out too quickly before the meat will have a chance to get to the final weight.

      1. Johann
        Johann

        5 stars
        Thanks Eric! I’ve got it figured out.

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