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Pastrami Was A Way To Preserve Meat Before Modern Refrigeration

hot pastrami

Pastrami lovers across the country look forward to their favorite sandwich on January 14 as they recognize National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day.

A very popular delicatessen meat, pastrami is usually made from beef however sometimes is made from pork, mutton or turkey.  The pastrami was originally created as a way to preserve meat before modern refrigeration. To make pastrami, the raw meat is placed in brine, then partially dried, seasoned with various herbs and spices, smoked and steamed.

  • A wave of Romanian Jewish immigration introduced pastrami (pronounced pastróme), a Romanian specialty, in the second half of the 19th century.  Early English references had used the spelling “pastrama” before the modified “pastrami” spelling was used.
  • New York kosher butcher, Sussman Volk is generally credited with producing the first pastrami sandwich in 1887, claiming to have gotten the recipe from a Romanian friend in exchange for storage of his luggage.  Due to the popularity of his sandwich, Volk converted his butcher shop into a restaurant to sell pastrami sandwiches.
  • Pastrami is typically sliced and served hot on rye bread, a classic New York deli sandwich (pastrami on rye), sometimes served with coleslaw and Russian dressing.
  • Pastrami and coleslaw are combined in a Rachel sandwich ( a variation of the Reuben sandwich using corned beef and sauerkraut)
  • In Los Angeles – The classic pastrami sandwich is served with hot pastrami right out of the steamer, sliced very thin and wet from the brine then layered on double-baked Jewish-style rye bread.  It is traditionally accompanied by yellow mustard and pickles.
  • In Salt Lake City – In the early 1960′s, Greek immigrants introduced a hamburger topped with pastrami and a special sauce.  This pastrami burger remains a staple of local burger chains in Utah.
  • Pastrami was originally created as a way to preserve meat before modern refrigeration.
  • Both the dish and the word pastrami originate from the Romanian delicacy pastram, from which the Yiddish language borrowed it.
  • According to Romanian sources, the word pastram. Pastram (pressed meat), a similar but different specialty (air-dried, unsmoked cured meat).
  • Turkey pastrami is made by processing turkey breast (pale pink) or thigh (dark pink) in a fashion similar to red meat pastrami, simulating the corresponding red meat deli product.
  • Like bacon, pastrami comes from the belly of the animal. In fact, some have said that pastrami is to beef what bacon is to pork: pretty much irresistible.
  • Pastrami was popularized even more in the 1920s and 1930s in delis in New York’s theater district.
  • Katz’s deli (NYC) is the oldest surviving New York deli and famous for its stuffed pastrami sandwiches.
  • One of the most famous movie scenes in history featured pastrami, as Billy Crystal enjoyed a pastrami sandwich during the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene which was shot at Katz’s Deli in New York (though she was having a turkey sandwich.) Crystal says he kept enjoying the pastrami between takes during filming.
  • The Dartells in 1962 recorded a hit song called Hot Pastrami.  It peaked at #11 on the U.S. pop charts in 1963.
  • In 1963, Joey Dee and the Starlighters released a song Hot Pastrami with Mashed Potatoes.
  • The pastrami sandwich is a central character in the 2014 documentary Deli Man.
  • In New York the deli business isn’t for the faint of heart.  The show Food Wars dedicated an episode to New York Pastrami Wars.
  • George Costanza of Seinfeld fame was once left speechless when his date Vivian told him, “I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats.”
  • Hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut also holds the pastrami sandwich eating record. He won the World Pastrami-Eating Championship by eating 25 7oz pastrami sandwiches in 10 minutes.
  • Some people are so passionate about pastrami they wear “pastrami on tie.”
  • Warsaw, Poland is home to an annual pastrami festival each June where pastrami is served in traditional and novel ways, like pastrami with hummus and asparagus and seasonal pastrami salad with asparagus and strawberries.
  • Jewish food festivals nationwide from Savannah to San Diego showcase New York style pastrami.


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