You do not have to be an avid foodie to know that artisan cured meat is the crown jewelry of charcuterie boards. They come in many shapes and sizes, dipped in various spices and bearing the strangest names, depending on their country of origin.
Many people believe that cured meats are fat-free, lean cuts. And, they wouldn’t be wrong. Some of them are leaner than a bodybuilder’s biceps. But, others abound in good, keto-friendly fat that is actually beneficial for your health.
Yes, that salami may look as if it has big chunks of soap in every slice. It may not look too appetizing, but that white, fatty part is where the cured meat gets its amazing taste from, and which eventually helps you build leaner muscles.
If you have just discovered cured meats, or you want to find out more about these artisanal delights, you have come to the right place. Today, we are sinking our teeth in these wondrous foods (at least virtually), and discover the many benefits that animal fat has to offer.
What are artisanal cured meats?
Artisanal cured meats are more than just snacks on a charcuterie board. They are the passion product of the intense and careful work that accompanies one of the noblest recipes for meat preparation.
Cured meat is any meat product that has gone through a process of preservation that includes the use of a concoction (salt, sugar, nitrites), and which has the purpose to prolong its edibility.
There are two methods of curing meat: wet and dry. Wet curing involves injecting the meat with a brine solution composed of water, salt, and sometimes sugar. You will sometimes hear some people referring to “wet curing” as “pickle curing,” and they do so because instead of using injections, they simply submerge the meat in the brine.
Dry curing is the process through which the salt is manually rubbed into the meat. Depending on the cut or the recipe, other spices and condiments may also find their way into the flesh through the same method.
Curing meat is a delicate process, and its purpose is to remove the water in the meat without using heat. It takes plenty of experience and knowledge to obtain perfectly cured meat, and that is why many issues can appear during the preparation and the drying period.
If the process takes place too slowly, bacteria grow and damage the meat from the inside. If it happens too fast, the surface of the meat develops toxic bacteria that slowly but steadily corrupts the entire piece. It is for this reason, and others more than cured meat requires the caring and attention of an artisan before it reaches our plates.
How healthy are cured meats?
There are two types of cured meats: the ones produced by artisans after recipes that have been practiced and developed over centuries or even millennia, and deli meats.
Like so many people out there, you might have gone through the “processed and cured meats cause cancer” scare of 2015. Back then, the Work Health Organization (WHO) released a study stating that over-consumption of these products may lead to an increased risk of cancer.
The news spread quickly worldwide, and many meat producers and artisans had to close up shop because people bought less processed meat. The WHO came back with additional statements pinpointing the cured meats that are healthy, and those that might cause tumor outbreaks.
One important detail that many had overlooked is that the element that increased the risk of cancer was the excess consumption of nitrites, and especially sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite. Many processed meat producers add these elements to the cured meat to enhance and prolong that red/pink color that we find so appetizing.
It is no surprise that the cured meat that contains the most nitrites is the deli meat. This food is usually produced in industrial quantities and sold at a smaller price. Consuming this type of cured meat may increase your chances of developing cancer.
However, there is always the other type of cured meat, which artisans produce in small quantities, and which has fewer or no nitrites at all. These products may be more expensive, but they pose fewer risks to your well-being. Usually, the preparation process only involves salt and an aging period that may vary from one product to another.
Is cured meat keto-friendly?
The ketogenic diet is a nutritional plan that is consistently growing in popularity and adepts. It is a diet that asks you to diminish the number of carbs (glucose) on your plate and consume more high-fat and high-protein foods. The gradual reduction in carbs forces your body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis.
During ketosis, the body receives less glucose from the food you consume, so it starts burning the stored fat to produce energy. As a result, the ketogenic diet allows you to lose weight while maintaining a high level of energy and consuming a relatively wide variety of foods.
Artisanal cured meats are high in both fat and protein. Products like dry-cured bacon, dry-cured Italian hams like Prosciutto, Lonza, Braesola, and Coppa are ideal for starting and maintaining a ketogenic diet.
Why the fat in cured meats is good for you
Contrary to deli cured meat, artisanal cured meat contains a drastically low amount of carbs, which cannot inflict on your keto-friendly meal plan.
The fat in your artisanal cured salami provides you with a substantial supply of energy that your body can use instantly. Those big, white chunks of fat are a rich source of B vitamins, particularly vitamins B1 and B12. They also deliver a healthy dose of essential minerals, including Sodium, Selenium, and Zinc.
If you are looking for some keto-friendly snacks, you shouldn’t look any further than artisanal cured meats. They offer all the benefits of healthy, slow-aged meat preparation with none of the risks that industrially-produced deli meats carry.