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Basterma or Pasterma

by Karl F Kolbus

A very rare recipe for Armenian "beef jerky".

The best time to make Basterma (Pasterma) is in the fall when it is still warm, breezy, but little humidity.
  • First you will need good meat. Filet mignon whole loin (beef tenderloin) is the best. Have the butcher trim all the silver and fat (if any) from it. Cut into about 6 inch pieces, about thirds of the loin.
  • Tie a heavy butcher string in one end of the loin and make a loop so you can hang the meat.
  • Cover the meat with coarse salt (Kosher salt or crushed rock salt, NOT water softener salt!) and let stand in a covered pan for 3 days. Drain occasionally and rub with salt as necessary.
  • Wash the salt off the chunks of meat with cold running water and then let the chunks soak for two to four hours in cold water. Hang the chunks by their loops and let drain for one hour.
  • Wrap the meat well with cheesecloth and arrange side by side in a roaster or lasagna pan. Place a board (cutting board) over them and weigh them down with heavy cans. This is to drain all the juice from the meat. Drain and change the cheesecloth every 12 hours. Continue this for 2 days or until no more water (juice) remains.
  • Cover the meat with fresh cheesecloth and hang the meat again in a DRY, cool windy place For two weeks until the meat is quite dry.
  • Make CHAIMEN and slather it heavily over the meat. Cover all of the meat. Wrap rather tightly in cheesecloth and hang outside for about 2 weeks.
  • Basterma is now ready to serve, but it will be very tender if kept in refrigerator in a plastic bag or plastic wrap for several more weeks.
  • To serve, scrape Chaimen from surface, and slice VERY thinly. Be careful - sliced fingers add little to the finished product . Arrange slices on a plate and serve. May be served as a finger food by itself, or with crackers.

RECIPE FOR CHAIMEN - for about 2 lb meat. Double as necessary. Unused Chaimen may be used for sautéed beef recipes or as a dip for hard-crusted rolls or flatbread.

  • 3 Tablespoons ground fenugreek
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon Allspice (optional)
  • 3-6 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all the above ingredients with enough water to make the mixture as thick as a thick paste. Process, if necessary, to remove any lumps.

This will keep in the refrigerator well for several weeks.

Note: Armenians eat this as a dip for bread, a marinade for hamburgers (lulu kebab), making soojookh, and I guess a lot more.