Pastırma of Kastamonu
Cured Meats and Meat By-products - Turkey
The pastırma made in the area of Kastamonu, in pastures in the Ilgaz Mountains, is an ancient product made from raw calf meat that is salted, spiced and aged. The word pastırma comes from the Turkish word bastırma, which means "something that is pressed." Kastamonu pastırma is particular today thanks to the use of traditional methods, the absence of additives and a natural drying method. Compared to other versions, Kastamonu pastırma has a darker color, a softer texture and typically very thin slices as it is sliced with special knifes by pastırma masters. Another reason for the unique taste is the natural spores from the production environment that work during the aging process. The pastırma is produced in a period called "The Summer of Pastırma" from October to November. In recent years the lean meat of veal has become more popular; however, artisans say that the fatty meat of mature cattle is much more delicious.
In the past pastırma was made using the local Anatolian Black cattle breed; today, this breed's population has declined and been replaced with Holsteins and Simmentals. Animals that have grazed on pastures give the meat its best flavor. The meat is salted with coarse salt and left to stand for about three days. Then it is washed with plenty of water and left to dry in the sun. The drying varies from 30 to 45 days depending on weather conditions. The dried meat is then covered with a paste containing fenugreek seeds, local Tasköprü garlic, cumin and pepper. This is applied only a few days before the pastırma is sold, otherwise it softens the meat. Pastırma without this mixture is also used in a local specialty called pastırmalı ekmek (kind of flatbread stuffed with pastırma seasoned with spices and onion).
Today, there are three small-scale producers who are still using artisanal production methods, and there is no industrial production of Kastamonu pastırma. These producers have farms on Kastamonu pastures and raise mainly local breeds of grass fed cattle and sell the pastırma from shops in the Kastamonu city center. This product has an uncertain future, however, as livestock farming decreases in Turkey. High costs, issues with livestock breeding, migration to cities and a lack of organization among producers are all affect pastırma production. However, recent media attention to this product has increased its popularity, adding the threat that increased demand may lead to low quality industrial imitations. In addition, the local variety of garlic used (Tasköprü) and the Anatolian Black cattle breed (with its fatty meat ideal for pastırma production) are also at risk of extinction.