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Basturma, Pastirma, Бастурмa

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An Armenian, Turkish, Russian cured cut of meat. Usually made from beef, it's cured, dried and coated with a highly spiced mixture called Chemen.

This is a piece I bought at Bedo's in Burj Hammoud (a neighborhood with a large Armenian community).


While in Beirut this past summer, I got a basturma recipe straight from an Armenian grandmother. I was even told where to buy the ingredients in Burj Hammoud.


The stuff in the can is a red food coloring.


While most recipes call for the fillet, I decided to go with an eye of round. This was about 4lbs and I sliced it in half to end up with 2 thinner pieces.


I laid the pieces on a bed of kosher salt and covered them with more.



I placed them in the fridge for 4 days. The pan was drained every day, I'd say the meat lost about 3 pints of liquid. This is what they look like on the last day.


As per the instructions, the meat was rinsed and soaked in water for 1 hour.


The slabs were dried and wrapped with cheese cloth and pressed between two cutting boards in the fridge for 2 days.


To my surprise there was no liquid released after the pressing. In fact the cheese cloth was barely damp. The meat was pretty firm.

I had skipped the step in which I was supposed to insert a twine through the narrow (thin) end of the meat to hang them with. Here my wife had a clever idea. She used a crochet needle to poke through and retrieve the twine.



I wasn't about to hang these outside so I took them to work and hung them in a keg cooler.


Directly in the air flow from the evaporator.


They hung for 15 days.

Next: Making the Chemen and coating the meat.

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After hanging this is what they looked like. Very firm.


Chemen, I think, literally means Fenugreek in Armenian, but has become the word to describe basturma's coating which contains other things.

The recipe for Chemen:

6 T Fenugreek

1/2 C Paprika

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp Black pepper

2 T cumin

1 1/2 tsp Allspice

6 Cloves garlic

1 tsp boya (arabic for paint:)

Enough water to form a paste.

Not surprisingly similar to many on the web. I really wasn't concerned about the chemen since I can taste and adjust. It's the curing method that seems to be different from one recipe to the next.

Used a microplane on the garlic.


After mixing the dry engredients the mixture didn't have the deep red color I thought it would have. I almost added more red paint. I'm so glad I didn't. As soon you start to add water this is what happens




I was told to use gloves for this part, but what do they know.


My hands were red for a week.


Those hung from September 19 til October 22

This is one of the slabs, the other will continue to hang until I need it.

The basturma looks right and taste great. A tad too salty.

One reason why internet recipes turned me off is that they all have different salting/soaking/hanging periods. Some say to cover with salt and others say to just rub the meat with as little as 2 T of salt.

In my case, if I ever do this again, I'd salt for the same period ( the meat has to cure right?), and soak for a longer period or perhaps change the water once or twice.


I'm happy with the cut of meat I chose, it's identical in texture to the store bought one pictured in the previous post. I really don't think the commercial stuff is made of fillets or ribeyes as they claim. After all the processing the stuff sell for about $9 usd/lb.


So if you live some where basturma, UPS, USPS, Fedex or DHL do not exist, and you really have a hankering for some, or if you're just like me, then try this.

Edited by ChefCrash (log)
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Awesome job documenting the process. Definitely copying this. Thanks for sharing.

Question: What's in the boya? Plain old food coloring?

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Awesome job documenting the process. Definitely copying this. Thanks for sharing.

Question: What's in the boya? Plain old food coloring?

Thanks guys

The can reads "Colorant Ponceau. I had to google it my self. I read the wiki description. Basically is a red food coloring used in industrial foods preparation.

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Mashallah! :biggrin:

These look awesome. I don't think I'll ever do this (multiple reasons why), but this looks a LOT better than the bastirma I can get from the Lebanese and Turkish shops. How does it compare to the best in Beirut?

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Now I'm craving Bedo's basturma sandwiches! I made basturma before using the online recipe from Len Poli. It was pretty good, but not exactly right. Tasted more like an Armenian falvored Bresaola :smile:. That recipe uses a thick purtion of sirloin which also workes great. Yours looks much like the real thing and I will have to try it now.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 1 month later...

In Turkish at least, boya is a very general term. You dye cloth with boya. You paint pictures with oil boya. You color foods with food boya. You paint your house with boya. If your hands get stained, they're "boya"ed. :)

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-Lea de Laria

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