Cold cuts are so convenient when you have to prepare picnic food or something for the road trip. All sorts of dried and cured meats are delicious, attractive, and desirable. Even the people who don’t usually eat meat can’t resist the smell and look at cold cuts. Let’s be brutally honest here! Bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, ham and the whole army of sausages are one of the most beloved kinds of foods.
Mediterranean point of view
When you look at this from the Mediterranean point of view, they are considered as comfort, festivity and everyday treat. Our forefathers ate it and it’s in our blood to desire it. We are not talking about some 100 years, we are talking about the oldest meat preservation methods since the dawn of civilisation. Thousands and thousands of years, humans have been searching for ways to preserve meat and fish before there was even thought of a refrigerator or freezer. Especially here in the Mediterranean zone where temperatures in summer reach oven levels!
Meat is our ancestral food
The fact that humans were struggling to preserve and have more meat throughout the years, shows us how appreciated it was. And let’s agree, meat is the most nutritious food on earth and when you are a Ketonian, it’s your staple! Cured meats must have been around ever since a skilled hunter brought more meat than usual and a tribe or a family needed to preserve it. We’ve learned that meat gets spoiled on an average temperature in a matter of hours. If it was a cold winter day (refrigerator temperature) it can be safe for a couple of days, even if it was cooked prior. Now cooking meat is a great way to reduce the microbes and benefit from the nutrients and energy it provides. However, nothing compares to drying, smoking and curing when it comes to preservation.
If Mediterranean diet is the healthiest one, why are we forgetting cold cuts?
The hype against processed meats is arising and you can find all sorts of scary articles claiming that eating cold cuts could increase your risk of heart disease and kidney failure. But how much of this is true? If you take a look at the history of cured, dried and smoked meat, you will notice that it has been around since the earliest times of human civilisation. And it has been eaten predominantly in areas where the “healthiest” Mediterranean diet is eaten. Then, what made it so unhealthy?
Two plain factors:
- Eating it with carbs, starch and sugar (sodium is potentially bad for us only if taken together with starch)
- Contemporary industrial preparation methods, additives and types of meat used
The ancient and most healthy preservative
Nothing can compare to good old salt when it comes to food preservation. Remember, in ancient times salt was a salary, this is how it got its name in Latin. To say it simply; curing requires a lot of salt. Preferably sea salt. Then we move to the drying, smoking and ageing processes as old-fashioned ways of preservation. When this process is done correctly, all harmful bacteria have no chance to flourish.
Nitrates and nitrites, are they safe?
The traditional way of curing included just fully covering the meat in salt. Of course, garlic and herbs were widely used for the flavour. However, not only flavour, garlic can provide antibacterial, antifungal protection.
Although some producers still use the old-fashioned method, the large majority of today’s industrial cold cuts and cured types of meat use chemicals called nitrites and nitrates. These are still just types of salts. They come in the form of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate. There is some controversy over the health effects of using these compounds.
As you know, Greek Goes Keto is all about old-fashioned and traditional. We would always recommend choosing products from “clean” and transparent producers. Those that don’t have 1000 e-additives in their labels. However, a small number of nitrates will not make such damage to your health because many vegetables contain it naturally!
How to choose the healthier versions, and when to have cold cuts?
Naturally, if you are choosing between a cooked meal and a cold cut, then always choose cooked meal. However, sometimes you’ll have to think of a quick meal for your trip or picnic. You might also be on a vacation and need something packed with the top nutrients, cold cuts are more than welcome. If you cannot find meat prepared with traditional methods, then you need to read the labels carefully. Here’s a list that will help you choose cold cuts that are healthier:
- If the product contains too many e-additives, you’ll be better if you decide to skip it
- The producer has to point out how much of what did they use, make sure sugar, dextrose or any other sweetener is not present more than 0.5%
- Nitrates and nitrites should also not exceed 1%
- Aim for beef, sheep, wild-gem, pork has a larger amount of Omega-6, so have it occasionally
- Mediterranean platter always includes aged cheese and olives
- If you are preparing a meal for the beach or picnic, have the temperature in mind. If it’s a very hot day, a portable refrigerator is ideal. If you don’t want to carry it, then better have the cold cuts before you leave.
- Use them as spices, nothing boosts the aroma of a sauce, stew or baked goodies as smoked meat with garlic
Greek Goes Keto recipes with cured meats