When the Spice Road Comes West …

… it finds a special place in the refrigerator of any Greek gourmet.

Or so says my husband, Basil, who many years ago was out of his mind with excitement at finding our local Greek grocer in Chicago carried pastourma, a pugnent, air dried salt and spice cured meat he loved – sneaking the thinly sliced meat from the plate his mother served to guests with ouzo in their Athens home.

Hearing the name, pah-stur-mah, I imagined something similar to the pastrami of my childhood, and actually wondered if there was any connection (note to self: check on that).  Ever the Greco-phile who wanted nothing more than to soak up as much of my adopted culture as possible, I was excited when he shared the news of his find, at least until I opened the fridge, for he neglected to share his memories of the smell of pastourma,  for along with salt there’s a generous mix of Eastern spices that make it really special.  Of course depending on your olfactory senses, that can be great, or not so great. In our own family, it means that this delicacy is only a purchase and consume immediately item, banned from our home fridge (though interestingly enough, even though taste and smell are so bound together, it’s not banned from our dinner plates).

For the adventurous, there was a recent article in the Athens News about an Greek family from Asia Minor that cures pastourma not far from the Central Market.  I haven’t made it to this particular shop, though it is now on my own personal “to do” list. If you are in the area, I suggest adding it to yours.


And for the really adventurouse, check out Peter Minakis’ blog, Kalogas, where he offers up a recipe and the steps for making your own pastourma.