Pastirma: A Taste of the Past
25.Jun.2015

A large number of the refugees from the 1922 Greek – Turkish population exchange were Karamanlides, Cappadocian Greeks who only spoke the Turkish language but wrote it in Greek characters.

They left what had be their home for thousands of years and were relocated into the Northern Greece. The resettlement was very hard for them as they had different traditions and they didn’t understand the Greek language. Most of refugees saw a huge drop in their standard of living. However, Karamanlides brought with them the art of pastirma, hence a serious income for some families came from its production and sale.

Pastirma or basturma (Gr. pastourmas), the air-dried meat has been made in Anatolia for hundreds of years. Apoktin, the Byzantine air -dried salted meat, was one of its forerunners. Apoktin could come from various meats, including pig, goat, wild goat, sheep, billy goat, even fish or cuttlefish but pastourmas comes mainly from beef or camel meat. In a culture that rarely eats beef pastirma is an exception.

We are introduced to the word pastirma no earlier than 1624 (Narh Defteri). 38 years later the pastirma from a pregnant cow’s tender meat was counted among the luxuries of Sultan’s banquets. (Baudier, 1662, p. 65)

pastrouma fridge

As Patric Leigh Fermor writes, a Greek refugee tavern- keeper from Iconium described how his pastourma was made “Υου get camel or ox meat, but a camel’s best’, he said with elliptic urgency, ‘then you put it in an olive press, and you tighten it up till every drop of moisture has been squeezed out. Every drop! Then cut it up in strips and salt it, then lay it in the sun for a month or two – best of all, in the branches of a tree, so that the wind cures it as well – but in a cage, of course, so the crows can’t get at it.’ Then it is taken down and embedded in a paste of poached garlic and the hottest paprika you can find on the market, reinforced by whatever spices of the Orient are handy.

When this has again been dried to a hard crust, it has the consistency of wood: it keeps for years. Thin slices, cut off with a razor-sharp knife, are normally eaten raw; occasionally it is cooked, when the aroma, aways unmanning to the uninitiated, becomes explosive. The taste is terrific and marvelous, but anathema to many because not only is the ordinary smell of garlic squared or cubed in strength- breath emerges with the violence of a blowlamp- but a baleful redolence of great range and power surfaces at every pore; people reel backwards and leave an empty ring around dinner, as though one were whirling in incendiary parabolas. (The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos)

pastrouma fanis
The layer of tsemeni (fenugreek) is an innovation of the past 150 years, however the simply salted pastourma (without tsemeni) is still found, under the name Roumeli pastirmasi.
Recently, Phanis Theodoropoulos, owner of the famous pastourma and soutzouki charcuterie ‘Arapian‘ and Paraskevas Sarimpoyias, a descendant of a Karamanli family and owner of ‘Sary‘ company (a fourth generation workshop for the production of cold cuts based in Drama) joined forces to open ‘Karamanlidika of Phanis‘, a charcuterie & fromagerie with a smattering of tables.

source: History of Greek Food by, Marianna Kavroulaki

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