Pastourma is a highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef. It is usually made from water buffalo or beef, but other meats can also be used. Different cuts of meat may be used; a single cow can produce 26 different “types” of pastourma. Fillet, shank, leg and shoulder cuts are used for the best quality pastourma. It is usually made during the months of October and November.
To make pastourma the meat is rinsed and salted before being dried and pressed. After the first drying period, the meat is cold pressed for up to 16 hours. This aids the process of removing moisture from the meat. After the first pressing, the meat is dried for several days during which the fats melt and form a white layer. The second press is a “hot press”. Finally, the dried and pressed meat is covered with a spice paste made from a paste of ground fenugreek seeds, chili powder and mashed garlic. The dried product is covered with the wet paste and left to dry again. The entire process takes approximately one full month.
Lowering the moisture level is a form of food preservation that hinders the growth of microorganisms, and the paste of ground fenugreek seeds is used to control surface mold growth during storage, to improve flavor, prevent of further drying, and has antimicrobial effects.