Cured meats are not only appetizing and tasty but also a quick and easy fallback when you don’t have time or desire to cook.
Simply place them on a plate together with bread, olives, or fruit and voilà! The meal is served within a few minutes without getting almost any dirty dishes!
However, it is important to know how to best preserve cured meats, in order to enjoy all their fragrance and their organoleptic characteristics.
This practical guide will therefore provide useful tips to both make this type of food last as long as possible, and to avoid food waste and health risks.
A badly stored product can give rise to illnesses and intoxications capable of causing serious consequences that may require medical intervention.
How to store cured meats
The best thing to do when buying fresh sliced cured meats, would be to take the right amount you want to consume, so as to avoid leftovers.
Otherwise, it is recommended to leave the product well wrapped inside the special deli paper, making sure of sealing it with your hands.
In this way the air will have no way to penetrate and oxidize the meat.
A second solution consists in placing the products inside a container with an airtight seal; this container must be positioned in the lowest part of the fridge (the vegetable drawer), which is less cold.
This remedy prevents the meat from hardening and losing its aroma in a short time.
The chromatic variation is the clearest sign of loss of freshness of cured meats.
Since this variation starts almost immediately, the best thing one can do would be to keep it in the fridge for a maximum of five days – unless it is sold in special packages, which, if kept closed, allow the cured meats to last until the expiry date shown on the label.
How to store whole cured meats
The ideal storage place for whole cured meats is undoubtedly the cellar or a corner of the house that is always cool. The ideal temperature ranges from 15 to 20 Celsius degrees.
It’s necessary to cover the “open” part with gauze, once a cured meat has been cut, and prevent it from resting on any surface, in order to counteract the formation of humidity and mold stains.
Each time a cured meat is sliced, it is recommended to throw the first slice away as it will be oxidized, and then cover the “open part” with a new cotton cloth or clean gauze that you can seal with cooking twine.
Finally, cured meats must be hung upside down and all the above procedures must be repeated every time until the product is completely finished.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a cellar. You can get excellent results even with a refrigerator: you just need to have a clean cloth in which to wrap the product once it has been removed from its original packaging.
Even in the case of whole cured meats, it is good to buy only the quantity that best suits your needs, in order to avoid waste.
What are the main differences between preserving sliced and whole cured meats
The preservation of sliced and whole cured meats differs in the following aspects:
- Whole cured meats last longer than sliced ones, as long as all the manufacturer’s instructions are correctly followed;
- Sliced cured meats tend to expire faster, due to their thinner thickness.
The substantial difference is also to be found in cured meats types: the softer ones tend to expire more quickly – just think of the “ciauscolo salami” which is spreadable. This salami can be kept in the fridge for a maximum of thirty days.
As for medium-long-aged products like Milan salami, they must be consumed, depending on the size, within one to two weeks.
For both types of aging, the vacuum (airtight) is a valid preserving technique, as this prevents the proliferation of bacteria that permanently damage the product and its oxidation, which makes the meat aesthetically unpleasant.
Cured meats preserved with the vacuum technique can be kept five times longer than with other methods – up to four-six months – as long as the package is not pierced, exposed to direct heat sources, or placed in damp places.
This method is accessible to every one, since airtight machine options can be easily and inexpensively found on the market
What cured meats are better preserved?
Cured meats are different from each other thus they have different preservation techniques. In addition to buying the right quantity of product, it’s advisable to read the instructions on the package carefully or to ask the manufacturer for advice – in the case of handmade products.
Another solution that may seem trivial (but is not at all) is to opt for food that you can keep inside your home.
For example, if a certain cured meat must be stored in the cellar and you do not have one, it is better to avoid buying a whole piece of it.
Can sliced cured meats be frozen?
The answer is yes, as long as they are wrapped in a deli paper or in aluminum foil. When you want to use them, you need to transfer them from the freezer to the refrigerator.
However, it must be specified that freezing tends to make cured meats lose their original aroma; it’s, therefore, better to use them as an ingredient for the preparation of cooked dishes – for example, baked pasta, risotto, roasted meat, and so on.
Of course, once the product has been defrosted, it is no longer possible to refreeze it.
Can whole cured meats be frozen?
It is common to think that freezing cured meats is the most effective remedy to preserve them longer; nothing could be more wrong.
In fact, whole cured meats cannot be frozen, except for some very specific types, as they would lose all their respective organoleptic characteristics.
It should also be noted that freezing cured meats increases the risk of oxidation and fat acidification.
It’s important to know the following, If you still want to proceed with this method of conservation:
- it’s necessary to eliminate all the fatty parts with the help of a well-sharpened knife;
- it’s recommended to freeze only cured meats with low salt content such as bresaola, “carne salada” (a typical cold cut from Trentino-Alto Adige), and cooked ham;
- it is advisable to freeze only cured meats if vacuum packed;
- once thawed, this food must absolutely not be refrozen, but consumed as soon as possible;
- it’s a good idea to write the freezing date on the bag, as cured meats require consumption within a maximum of three months, otherwise, they become inedible.
It must be remembered that a good preservation of whole cured meats also depends on their quality: artisanal ones ensure a better result than those of industrial production, as the former is free of additives and preservatives that can compromise the final result.
Conclusion on cured meats preservation
Knowing all the methods of preserving cured meats can be useful at any time, because it often happens to buy a larger quantity of product than is normally consumed – or even to get cured meats as a gift from a loved one.
It is therefore recommended to keep these methods in mind so that you can fully appreciate their taste. Always keep in mind the arch-enemies of these foods, be them whole or sliced: heat and humidity.
For this reason, if you intend to consume cured meats during a picnic or as lunch, place them in a previously refrigerated thermal bag or in a portable refrigerator complete with an icebox.
These containers, in addition to being economically accessible to everyone, perfectly protect cured meats from sunlight, dust, and humidity.