Pastrama

Cured meats and meat products - Romania

Pastrama is a popular traditional Romanian cured meat made mainly from mutton or lamb. The word pastrama comes from the Romanian words a pastra, which means “to keep” or “to preserve.” It may even derive from the more ancient Latin pastor which means “shepherd.” So, pastrama is shepherd’s meat from mutton or lamb. Pastrama was introduced to the United States by Romanian-Jewish immigrants in the beginning of the 19th century. The word has slowly morphed into the famous “pastrami,” which to Americans sounded more Italian and was easier to pronounce.   The old traditional pastram? is still made by shepherds using only wooden tools, including the trough, spoons, forks, platters and barrel. Every step of the process is natural. First, the mutton is deboned and hung for an hour to dry. In the meantime, a rub containing herbs and spices (but no salt!) is prepared. Incisions are made into the thickest parts of the meat, which is then rubbed vigorously on all surfaces. Finally, a thin layer of salt covers the whole surface. The mutton is rolled with the fat facing outward, put in the wooden trough and covered with another trough and left outside in cool weather (6-8°C) for three or four days. The mutton releases its juices, and the rolled meat is turned once a day as it sits in the juice. Then, it is hung for one to two days in the wind, before being ready to eat, use in other recipes, or store. Some shepherds do not smoke the pastram?, but preserve it until the spring by keeping it rolled in barrels that have been sealed with clay. Others cold smoke the pastram? using oak shavings.   The taste of pastram? varies and depends on the seasoning and production methods used by individual producers. A favorite traditional meal is pastram? with Branza de Burduf and mamaliga (traditional porridge made out of yellow corn flour). Today, shepherds in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains still make pastram? in the traditional way for their own consumption or to sell in very limited quantities.