Recipe: Cold-Smoked Salmon Cure

By Ronnie Suburban


lox2 fileted sides of wild salmon, skin-on (total 12-15 pounds net)
500 g. kosher salt
200 g. light brown sugar
400 g. granulated sugar
12 g. white pepper (freshly ground)
6 g. bay leaf (freshly ground)
4 g. mace (freshly ground)
1 oz. rum or vodka
Fresh dill to cover


1. Mix sugars and salt together. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the remaining seasonings into a fine powder and incorporate that powder into the sugar/salt mixture. In the bottom of a large, non-reactive container (glass or plastic is best), spread about 25 percent of the cure down to create an even layer.

2. Next, lay the fish down (skin side down) evenly on top of that. Then, sprinkle the rum or vodka evenly over the surface of the fish. Lay the sprigs of fresh dill over the fish evenly, covering its entire surface. After that, use all the remaining cure to cover the fish entirely, patting it gently to make sure no part of the surface of the fish is not covered. Some dill will poke through, which is no big deal.

3. Cover all the fish with plastic wrap, then place a cutting board or other flat surface on top of that to create a press. Place a couple of #10 cans (3-4 pounds of total weight) on top of the press.

4. Place the entire container in the refrigerator and let the fish cure for 24-72 hours. The thicker the fish, the longer it must cure. Small pieces usually take no more than 24 hours. Large pieces can take up to 72 hours. Check after 24 hours and then every 12 hours after that until the fish is cured though. It should still be supple and moist but not raw-feeling.

5. Once the cure is completed, rinse the fish off thoroughly with cold water and dry it off. Place the cured fish on a rack, so it can dry further from above and below, and refrigerate it for 24 hours to create a pellicle, which will help the fish take on the smoke.

6. Once the pellicle has developed, cold-smoke the fish indirectly with apple wood (or other wood of your choice). The smoke should not be above 100 degrees F. as it comes in contact with the fish. If the smoke gets hotter than that, it’ll cook the fish, instead of cold-smoking it. The fish must be kept cold during this process to prevent spoilage. This can be accomplished by smoking only during cold weather, or putting the fish on a rack above a tub of ice.

7. Fish can be smoked for any duration of time, depending on your preference for smokiness. I generally try for about six hours but even two will produce a good, smoky result.

Recipe: Pastrami

By Ronnie Suburban

This one’s based on a recipe from “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.


A 10-13 pound whole brisket, trimmed*

For the Cure:
1 ½ gallons cold water
½ gallon ice water
700 grams kosher salt
14 grams pink salt (this is the amount to use for up to 25 pounds of meat**)
2 T. pickling spice
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
½ cup honey
10 garlic cloves, crushed

Before smoking:
16 grams coriander seeds, lightly toasted
20 grams black peppercorns, lightly toasted


1. Completely dissolve the salts, sugar, honey and pickling spice in 1 ½ gallons of water. Do this over low heat if you have to, but these items will normally dissolve in cold water after some stirring (obviously, some elements of the pickling spice will not dissolve at all). Add the garlic. Stir until combined thoroughly. Add the ½ gallon of ice water to bring the temperature of the cure down. The cure must be cold (38° Fahrenheit or lower) in order for this to work properly and be safe.

zf2012.smokingmeats2. Fully submerge the brisket in the cure. If it floats, you can keep it submerged by placing a non-reactive plate on top of it. Depending on the thickness of the brisket, leave it in the cure for 7-10 days, so that the cure penetrates to the deepest part of the brisket. Or, you can inject the cure into the center of those thick portions of the brisket and reduce the cure time to 3-4 days.

IMPORTANT:  If you used heat to make the cure, refrigerate it until it reaches temperature before adding the brisket.

3. After the brisket has cured fully, rinse it off completely. Pat the brisket dry.  If you have time, place the cured brisket, uncovered – or wrapped in a single layer of cheesecloth – in refrigeration for 24 hours at (or around) 38° F. but do not freeze it. This extra step produces a pellicle, which allows the smoke to adhere to the brisket better. My experience is that it is not really necessary.

4. After the brisket is dry, lightly toast the black pepper and coriander seeds in a dry sauté pan. After they are toasted, grind them coarsely, mix them together thoroughly and rub the entire brisket with the mixture.

5. Hot-smoke the cured, rubbed brisket fat-side down at 200-250° F. for up to six hours over a wood of your choice:  apple, hickory or oak are good ones. If you like it smokier, smoke it long but do not let the internal temperature of the brisket rise above 150° F. If it hits 150° F., remove it from the smoker. The key here is that if the pastrami gets to 150° F too soon, it will not have a lot of smokiness. There really is no downside to smoking it longer (or at a lower temperature) because the final step is a braise, which will cook the pastrami fully if smoking did not get it to that point. Just make sure you do not exceed 150° F. during the smoking process or the exterior of the meat will become dry and desiccated. For restaurant applications, there may be other food-safety regulations that must be followed.

6. After the pastrami has received the desired amount of smoke or reached 150° F., it should be braised before serving. Braising will not only make it extremely tender but will also rid the meat of excess saltiness. I generally braise it for four hours at 275° F. Your mileage may vary.

7. After placing the pastrami in the braising vessel, I fill the vessel about halfway up the brisket with cold water. After about two hours of covered braising, I dump out 90 percent of the water, flip the brisket over, re-fill the vessel again to halfway up the brisket with fresh water, and continue to braise for another two hours. I find that it’s best to braise fat-side-down first and fat-side-up second. The pepper and coriander mix, if applied before smoking, will adhere to the brisket during braising. You’ll lose some of it but not enough to be a problem.

8. After the braise all you have to do is slice (against the grain) and serve.


*Pastrami has an important, defining rub on the outside, so how you trim the brisket before you prepare it is important. You need some fat on the outside to protect it during the smoking process. However, because the fat – which carries the black pepper and coriander – will ultimately be eaten, leaving too much on will result in a fairly unpalatable final product. If you trim the fat after the smoking, you’ll lose the spicy crust that is key to a good pastrami. So, trim the brisket well before curing. I generally try to separate the point from the flat, leaving it attached. I also try to leave about ¼” of fat on the exterior of the brisket.

**This recipe is scalable, depending on how much meat you use. However, the pink salt, which can be dangerous if used in excess, is not as adjustable. Use 1 teaspoon for up to 25 pounds of meat. If you use less than 10 pounds of meat, you might want to consider using even less pink salt.

Recipe: Vegetable Spinach Kugel

By Steve Zaransky (stevez)

stevekugelNote from Alan Lake: The word kugel comes from the German word for ball or sphere. Traditionally it was a round (this is not the case so much any more), baked, sweet or savory casserole made of noodles or potatoes, served as a side dish. In America, traditional kugel was updated to include many variations on a theme. One variation, farfel, consists of small, pellet-shaped pasta and is most prevalent in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine. Savory kugels may include potatoes, matzah meal, carrots, zucchini, cabbage, spinach or cheese.


10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
4 T.  canola oil
½ cup matzo meal
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups grated raw carrots
½ cup chopped celery
½ lb. sliced mushrooms
2 zucchini, grated
1 ½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper



1. Saute onions and all other vegetables in oil (you may need more oil).

2. Add spinach to sauté.

3. Mix everything. Put mixture in a 13″x 9″ pan that has had oil heated in the bottom for five minutes. Bake for 50 minutes or until it looks done.

Braised Short Ribs

By Steve Zaransky


6 beef short ribs cut flanken-style
3 T. vegetable oil
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces (for the braise)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾” pieces (to serve – optional)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 shallots, sliced ¼” thick
6 clove sof garlic, peeled and cut in half
3 T. tomato paste
3 T. flour
1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
6 cups of veal stock or chicken stock (enriched with demi-glace, if possible)
6 red potatoes, peeled
6 prunes (optional)
salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Season the short ribs generously with salt & pepper.

3. Put the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves between the two halves of the celery stalk and tie into a bundle with twine.

steveribs4. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until the oil starts to smoke, then brown the short ribs well. You will probably have to do that in two batches. Be sure to pour off most of the fat between batches. Remove the short ribs and set aside on a plate. Optionally, you can brown the short ribs over a charcoal fire instead of the Dutch oven to add a smoky note to the dish. That’s what I usually do.

5. Lower the flame to medium and add the tomato paste, cooking for a few minutes until it mellows out and mixes with the oil. Add the onion, the 1” carrot pieces, shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven and sauté until the onion softens and starts to brown slightly.

6. Add the flour and stir well to combine. Cook the flour for two minutes, constantly stirring; add the wine and the celery herb bundle. Raise the heat back to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by a third (20 – 25 minutes).

7. Return the short ribs to the pot, stacking in two layers, if necessary. Add the stock, optional prunes and a little salt (about a teaspoon). Be sure short ribs are completely covered by the stock. If not, add enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover the Dutch oven and transfer to the oven for three hours.

8. At the one hour mark, add the potatoes to the Dutch oven and continue to cook. The short ribs are done when the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.

9. Transfer the ribs and potatoes to a platter, and then strain the braising liquid through a sieve or fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Skim the fat from the braising liquid and return it to the cleaned Dutch oven or a medium saucepan.

10. Bring the liquid to a strong simmer and reduce by a little more than half (approx. 1 hour). Add the optional ¾” carrots at the 20 minute mark. Return the short ribs and potatoes to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes to reheat for service.