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When laziness meets paranoia- the serrano ham version.
April 21, 2012 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Is is okay to leave serrano ham slices wrapped in their wax paper but on the counter?

I know, this is ridiculous but I don't want to give strangers food poisoning. I bought some serrano ham last night for a party and of course it was so good that I ate a few slices ...just to try it out.

Then I was super tired and forgot that I left it out. I know it is cured meat and left hanging on the ceilings in spanish locales for ages, but is there any problem when it is already sliced and left on the counter in a relatively hot NYC apartment?

Please assuage my paranoia. I really like these people and want a zero percent chance of making them ill!
posted by bquarters to Food & Drink (17 answers total)
 
Nope. Because it's been sliced, the surface area for bacteria growth has increased exponentially.

And the slicer took all the bacteria from the outside and transferred it onto your slices.

Ditto for all the things the machine had come into contact with before your ham.
posted by bilabial at 5:33 AM on April 21, 2012


When you purchased said ham was it in the refrigerated deli case? If so, I would tend to agree with bilabial. If, however, you purchased it out of refrigeration, then I would say go for it.
posted by catseatcheese at 5:53 AM on April 21, 2012


Dry-cured hams may be aged more than a year. Six months is the traditional process but may be shortened according to aging temperature.

These uncooked hams are safe stored at room temperature and because they contain so little water, bacteria can't multiply in them.


Source: USDA, Ham and Food Safety
posted by gimonca at 5:55 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some sources suggest refrigerating sliced serrano, the ones I'm finding are commercial, which suggests to me that it's more about butt-covering (so to speak) than real risk.
posted by gimonca at 5:57 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Her results show that it only took a few hours for the bacteria to multiply in the boiled and smoked ham. In the Serrano ham, it took a week before the number of bacteria increased and on the salami they did not survive at all. --Report of a study by Dr. Nina Carlquist at Lund University in Sweden.
posted by gimonca at 6:04 AM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's the abstract for that study. It sounds like when Staph aureus was put in the meat, it took five days of slow growth at room temperature for it to produce toxins.
posted by gimonca at 6:12 AM on April 21, 2012


Yeah, I already decided that I am just going to buy more ham for later (bought at speciality store yesterday, too far to return in time for tonight due to other time commitments) from somewhere else, probably the easier to find prosciutto, and just eat this ham myself, later. Yum. Or..ugh, will find out soon enough. Thanks for your answers.
posted by bquarters at 7:31 AM on April 21, 2012


I would serve and eat this with no qualms. I have worked in gourmet food service and have eaten and served a lot of never refrigerated dry-cured meats. On preview, Looks like you've decided not to serve it to your guests, but I hope you choose to enjoy it yourself. There's nothing wrong with it.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:34 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well - I just served a bunch of Iberico Bellota to friends and family that by the time it was finally eaten had been sliced off the ham for at least 12 hours and not refrigerated.

Also if you bought it at a place like Despana - all of the charcuterie there is similarly dry cured so I would also disregard the caveat about the slicer as a vector.
posted by JPD at 7:36 AM on April 21, 2012


If it were just me eating it, I'd eat it. But serving it to other people would make me nervous, so I'd eat the serrano I bought and go out and get new serrano for guests.
posted by rtha at 7:37 AM on April 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


A whole dry cured ham is safely stored out of refrigeration, but once it is sliced, I would be wary. At the very least, it probably won't taste good from oxidation.
posted by gjc at 8:16 AM on April 21, 2012


*Waves* from Spain. Eat it.
posted by adamvasco at 11:44 AM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks!! Maybe I subconsciously left it out so I would have to eat it all myself!! Haha.
posted by bquarters at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my family, we routinely leave out meat for days at a time, and I don't remember anyone ever getting food poisoning. Admittedly, this is probably a bad idea, but it always amuses me when people get so scared about leaving food out for just a few hours.
posted by archagon at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2012


(Maybe this is an Eastern European thing...)
posted by archagon at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2012


I've noticed that folks from the USA (myself included) are extraordinarily biased toward bacteria and contamination when making assessments in eating food. Part of it is the FDA's PSAs and their conservative bias toward assuming food spoilage. I think another part of it is our litigious culture, which tends to discourage certain kinds of risk-taking.

What it conveniently forgets, though, is the thousands of years of tradition and history worldwide in making food last without refrigeration.

I tend to eat things other folks in the US say is slightly or very at risk of being off. Part of it is my Chinese cultural background - we eat all sorts of scary dry-cured, salted, wet-cured, and fermented meat products. I realize that these are usually cured, fermented, salted, etc. in controlled-ish conditions, but usually not any less controlled than your average kitchen.

I don't want to derail, so feel free to ask if you want examples. But just know that a lot of answerers to the should I eat it category of questions are using the US's FDA as the reference source of info when answering.
posted by kalessin at 4:57 PM on April 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's totally fine. It's normal to leave the whole ham out on a jamonero and slice from all sides (the holder rotates.)

Your sliced ham didn't even risk getting a wee bit dried out, since it was still wrapped in wax paper. There is seriously nothing wrong with how you stored this meat.
posted by desuetude at 7:22 PM on April 21, 2012


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