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Good vs. Bad Mold

Good vs. Bad Mold

A Look at Good Mold and Bad Mold on Artisanal Cured Meats

Our relationship with moldy foods and ingredients is strange, to say the least. Mold on food is relatively healthy or toxic depending on the product that carries it. White mold on bread = bad. White mold found on tomatoes or bananas = very bad. White mold on artisanal cured meat = perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, the whiter the mold = the better the salami, ham or dried sausages.

Most people shy away from foods that carry mold spores. They instantly associate it with infection, disease, and death. But, it is not all toxic mold. Good mold can exist. Some of them have the role of preserving the edible qualities of foods like cheese and cured meat.

Today, we take a closer look at the good mold that makes artisanal cured meat have that delightfully unique taste. When it comes to mold, it is always a good thing to seek out more information. We also list the bad mold on meats that are dangerous for your health, but we also provide solutions for getting rid of them. 

What are molds?

According to the USDA, molds are microscopic fungi that live on plant or animal matter. No one knows how many species of fungi exist, but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps 300,000 or more. Not all mold is dangerous, although some of them may produce mycotoxins, poisonous substances that can make people sick.

Most mold spores develop on the non-porous surface of foods and ingredients, and just a few grow inside the food, such as is the case of blue cheese molds.

Molds exist in all types of environments and pops up on our food all the time. While most of them prefer and thrive in hot, humid conditions, some also develop in cold and dry conditions. The latter ones are those that form in the fridge or in cold, storage rooms where meat is hung up for drying.

Fresh meat or deli meat should never show signs of mold growth, which show that the food is in an advanced state of decomposition. If you come across a piece of meat that has mold, your best choice is to throw it out.

Which molds are good on cured meats?

Good mold found on cured meat should look white and fuzzy. This specific type of good mold acts as a protective mesh of microorganisms that keep the salami or the dry sausages from developing bad, toxic mold.

The standard good mold for artisanal cured meats is Penicillium Nalgiovense. You can easily spot the normal mold from the moment you walk into a charcuterie shop. It is the white, fluffy coating that keeps the meat from drying out too fast. In time, it slows the drying process and enables the development of all kinds of delicious aromas.

The Penicillium has a slight smell of ammonia. It rarely stains your hands when handling the cured meat and it is easy to clean or wipe off the food. Do not mistake this normal mold for another type of white mold that is hairy or furry, and which is a bad mold for any kind of food.

Generally, cured meat artisans clean the products before packing and selling them. However, while it stays in your fridge, the culture of white mold may reappear from some of the remaining pores. The new coating of protective fungus should not scare you. On the contrary, as long as the resurging normal mold is white or light grey, the dried meat is still ideal for consumption.

The white mold is perfectly safe to eat. Most of the time, it resides on the casing of a piece of cured meat, which you can easily remove. Some people have no problem with eating the casing as well, which in most cases is edible.

You can prevent bad, toxic mold from overtaking cured meats by not placing them in the same storage area with fresh fruits or vegetables. Your best choice is to have a small fridge or cold pantry for safe, long-term storage of artisanal cured meats.

Which molds are bad for artisanal cured meats?

There are two types of bad molds on cured meats: green and black.

Green mold found on cured meat is a sign that the storage room in which you keep it has either too much humidity or very poor air ventilation. You can still try to salvage your dried salami, ham and sausages by reducing the moisture or increasing airflow into the room in order to remove the bad mold.

Green mold may sometimes appear as blue, but it is caused by the same type of mold. Contrary to the powder-like texture of white mold, the green mold is fuzzy and leaves small amounts of crumbles on other surfaces as well. When you handle cured meat that has developed this bad mold, you should wear gloves to avoid staining your skin.

Black mold is a clear sign that you should immediately throw away the cured meat that has developed it. This specific type of mold is poisonous and appears when you store dried meat in a room that has no air ventilation, and where the humidity is at a very high level.

If you are storing artisanal cured meat into a room that has the same environmental conditions of a rainforest, it will most likely develop the infamous black mold.

If the cured meat in your storage room has developed green or black mold growth, you should immediately move it into a sterile environment. Clean the green mold of the dried sausages, and throw away any meat product that shows signs of black mold. Do not attempt to eat it as it can cause you serious health risks and other respiratory problems.  

How to remove green mold from meat

If you spot green mold appearing on artisanal cured meat in its early stages, you can still save most of the contaminated piece. Simply dip a cloth in vinegar and use it to wipe down the fuzzy fungus from the meat. The vinegar acts as a disinfectant, and its smell should disappear in a matter of days.

To prevent the green mold from reappearing, you should move all the meat to a different room. Wipe the walls in the storage room with more vinegar and leave it open for a few days to kill the last airborne mold spores. It is very important to prevent prolonged exposure to this mold.