So this recipe is dually influenced by my buddy Josh Dahlke, if you aren't familiar with him you should look into his The Hunger Series, all about hunting and eating wild game. Josh had a freezer mishap that ended up benefiting me in a big way. I ended up with all sort of wild turkey legs and thighs and a couple of beautiful wild turkey breasts. I made my way through all the leg and thigh portions and had these two big beautiful breasts left to use. I usually make a wild turkey piccata or some kind of fried wild turkey but after reading his post for The Cast-Iron Chef about making deli meats out of the breast I decided I was going to make a wild turkey pastrami.
I am not new to making pastrami I have used this brine for everything from deer hearts to goose breasts and I have yet to have a bad outcome. This was really the recipe that got me going about 17 years ago. I was shooting a lot of ducks back then and would make this with duck breasts. Those were such a hit that I used this brine recipe for anything I could. It works really well on venison, bear and any other wild game you might have. The brine time just changes a little depending on the size of the hunk of meat you are using. For something small like duck breasts 24 hours is plenty but for a big venison roast it will take 3-4 days for the brine to penetrate the meat.
I think this turkey pastrami is my favorite of all that I have tried. It makes a hell of a sandwich and the other night I made pickle rolls with it. I tried to get a picture but my guests that night ate them all to quickly. If you have a smoker I would highly recommend smoking this but if you don't you can still make it in the oven.
Wild Turkey Pastrami (adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic)
2 wild turkey breasts
1 tablespoon black peppercorns (plus 2 tsp ground black pepper to roll the brined breasts in)
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
1 tsp whole cloves
3 cloves of garlic (smashed)
2 tsp whole juniper berries (plus 1 tablespoon ground juniper berries to mix with ground black pepper)
4 cups water
½ cup Maple sugar
½ cup kosher salt
1/10 ounce of insta cure # 1 (pink curing salt)
Bring the water, maple sugar, and both salts to a boil and dissolves completely, then add the rest of the ingredients to the brine and let stand until room temperature.
Place the turkey breasts in the brine and refrigerate for 24-48 hours turning the breast over in the brine everyday
After the breast have been brined dry them off and cover one side of the breast with the black pepper and juniper mix
Place in a smoker and smoke at 180 degrees for 5-6 hours or until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees
After the breasts come out of the smoker wrap them in plastic wrap and let them hang out in the fridge for 3-4 days. After that slice it thin and enjoy.