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 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.
Many people shy away from foods that carry mold. They instantly associate it with infection, disease, and death. But, not all forms of mold are toxic. 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 mold that makes artisanal cured meat has that delightfully unique taste. We also list the bad molds on meat 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. They are not all dangerous, although some of them may produce "mycotoxins," poisonous substances that can make people sick.
Most molds develop on the surface of foods and ingredients, and just a few grow inside the food, such as is the case of blue cheeses molds.
Molds exist in all types of environments. 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, 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 on cured meat should look white and fuzzy. This type of mold acts as a protective mesh of microorganisms that keep the salami or the dry sausages from developing bad mold
The standard good mold for artisanal cured meats is "Penicillium Nalgiovense." You can easily spot it 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 it 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 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 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 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.
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 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 type of poisonous mold 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 black mold.
If the cured meat in your storage room has developed green or black mold, 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 you can seriously damage your health.
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 fungus spores in the air.