It’s a cured-meat battle this week, as I pit my venison pastrami up against Wild Chef reader and frequent Food Fighter Justin Swope. If you haven’t tried making your own pastrami, I strongly suggest you give it a try as it’s incredibly easy to do–whether you go with a wet brine like Swope or a dry cure as I recommend. Either way, I can all but guarantee success.

Justin Swope’s Venison Pastrami


I deboned the ham from a recent harvest, and placed it in a brine of kosher salt, sugar, pickling spice, and cloves of garlic. I also included an appropriate amount of curing salt (pink salt). The ham brined for two weeks. After rinsing, I coated the ham with black pepper and ground coriander. I smoked the ham with a mix of hickory and pecan chips at 250 degrees to an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The outcome was a pastrami that was medium rare to medium. I sliced it thin, steamed it with Swiss cheese, then placed it on a hoagie with horseradish sauce and my mom’s homemade sauerkraut.

David’s Venison Pastrami


While a brine like the one Justin Swope used works great, I prefer to dry cure my pastrami using the recipe found here. After about six or seven days, mine gets rinsed and coated in black pepper and coriander and smoked with hickory or alder, though I do like Swope’s use of pecan and plan to give that a try. The only thing missing–and what might turn the table’s Swope’s way–is the inclusion of his mom’s homemade sauerkraut.

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