If given the choice of having a slab of corned beef for dinner, I’ll choose any day to have a Reuben Sandwich instead. Just as wonderful are simple Home Cured Pastrami on Rye Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese. Smoking the brisket is what makes the difference!
While I admit that I have an undying love for Reuben Sandwiches, a girl cannot live for them alone so sometimes I switch it up and make my own pastrami instead. And there is really just one basic difference…corned beef is braised in a pot with liquid and pastrami is smoked until tender and done.
A true aficionado would try to find a cut from the navel end of the beef brisket, known as the plate cut. This is a popular cut for pastrami-making as it is considered kosher, since it comes from the front quarters of the cow. The problem for home charcuterie is that this cut is simply not made available to butchers so I’ve always used the same brisket I would if making corned beef. Just don’t cut off all of the fat so it stays moist during the long smoke.
Ideally when smoking a brisket I use a wood without the flavor of hickory or mesquite; preferring an apple wood. There is plenty of flavor from the curing brine and the spice cap so a nice smoke flavor is good but additional flavor from a stronger wood is not necessary. And this sandwich is all about the meat; New York City’s Katz Deli has one of the most famous deli sandwiches using pastrami; it’s as simple as piling the meat on rye bread with yellow mustard.
For my Home Cured Pastrami on Rye Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese I do love a bit of melting Swiss cheese and I use whole grain mustard. I’ve never been a huge fan of rye bread but I absolutely adore this bread from Pepperidge Farm that is a swirled combination of rye and pumpernickel. Chips and a big Kosher pickle to finish it off are all that is required!
This sandwich is not grilled like a Reuben either, just warmed. Top and bottom slices of bread are slathered with whole grain mustard and I simply put the bottom slice of bread in a cast iron skillet on medium heat and top it with slices of warm pastrami and Swiss cheese and cover it for a minute or two with a skillet lid just long enough to have the cheese melt. Remove it, top it with the 2nd slice of bread and voila…you might almost think you’re in New York!
Just a quick FYI…sure you can use the packaged meat that is ready to be cooked for corned beef. I’ve had mixed results though as you can’t really inspect the beef; one year it was so fatty it was almost inedible. For that reason alone it’s worth starting from scratch. But if that’s not good for you; then certainly try it using a package of already cured meat; that’s what’s been done when you buy corned beef in a package and it’s ready for smoking right away. You’ll still have to make the spice rub as those packages only give you spices to put into the water the corned beef is prepared in.
I know it’s Irish food time but I’ve already shared my method for making fantastic Reuben Sandwiches from Pressure Cooker Corned Beef as my homage to St. Patrick’s Day. Luckily neither recipe is limited to just a short period in March…corned beef and pastrami are tasty all year long!
You know what I would drink with this? Sure a glass of Guinness is great but this Guinness Vanilla Malt Milkshake with Irish Cream Whipped Cream is even greater! To Cure the Beef: To Make the Rub: To Cook the Brisket: To Make the Sandwich: FOR YOUR SAFETY: The pink salt called for in this recipe is not the same as Himalayan Pink Salt; it is used in corned beef, pastrami and other cured meats to kill bacteria, prevent botulism and add flavor. It is extremely toxic if ingested directly however and is colored pink to prevent it from being mistaken for regular salt. When used correctly in recipes like this, it is necessary for proper flavor and food safety. Be sure to keep the curing salt properly labeled and out of the reach of children.
3 quarts water
1 cup Morton's coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup pink curing salt (Also known as Prague Powder - NOT Himalayan pink salt. See notes below).
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp pickling spice
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 Tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3-4 lbs beef brisket
For the Rub:
For the Rub:
To Cure the Beef:
To Make the Rub:
To Cook the Brisket:
To Make the Sandwich:
FOR YOUR SAFETY: The pink salt called for in this recipe is not the same as Himalayan Pink Salt; it is used in corned beef, pastrami and other cured meats to kill bacteria, prevent botulism and add flavor.
It is extremely toxic if ingested directly however and is colored pink to prevent it from being mistaken for regular salt. When used correctly in recipes like this, it is necessary for proper flavor and food safety.
Be sure to keep the curing salt properly labeled and out of the reach of children.