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Pastrami-along: Greg’s Brine Recipe

Though I bought my brisket Wednesday afternoon and had planned to start brining it that evening, I was sidetracked by a writing deadline and the arrival of a wicked head cold. But I must brine! So this morning I’m sneezing my way through a house that now smells like pepper. If Sudafed weren’t making my head so loopy, I’d make a joke about that.

I deviated a little from the recipe we posted over at The Holocene, in part because my partner makes pastrami and I’m using the ingredients he already had in the house, and in part because he’s opinionated and I figure it can’t hurt to change things up a little.

image of spices

Greg’s Brine Recipe

2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp juniper berries
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp red peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp Prague powder*
1/4 tsp allspice (ground)
1/4 tsp ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp cloves (ground)
2 bay leaves (crumbled)

*Corey’s recipe calls for 1 oz. of pink salt. Greg had Prague powder instead, so we used 1 tsp of that (appropriate for 5 lbs of meat).

Greg objected to using cardamom, which is among the ingredients in the mix Corey uses. I believe his exact words were, “One-quarter teaspoon cardamom. No. I disagree with cardamom.”

Following Corey’s instructions, I made the brine in a large soup pot, and it’s now cooling in the fridge. In a couple hours, once it’s fully cool, I’ll put the meat in and leave it covered in the fridge for the required five days.

And now I’m back in bed feeling sorry for myself and wishing my nose didn’t smell like cloves. *whine*

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Greg Werker

Specifically, this recipe uses Prague Powder #1, which is about 6% sodium nitrite (and not #2 which also includes sodium nitrate). Prague Powder #1 is (according to Wikipedia) the same thing as Pink Salt. If you’re using a product of either name, check the sodium nitrite concentration, and if it is the same, use NO MORE than 1/4 tsp per pound of beef. At this level the stuff is harmless (actually good for you if you factor in the food safety issues from not using it, or using too little). But at higher concentrations it may be harmful.

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