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Apr 13, 2011 08:58 AM

Ham: when to toss?

I've found a great website about food longevity (I'm afraid to post a link in case this post gets pulled, so Google "Shelf Life Advice" and it should come up) and I'm wondering about deli ham -- you know, the Black Forest stuff you get in the shrink-wrapped packages.

Now common sense would tell you that ham that's somewhat slimy wouldn't be good any more -- yet countless times it's been slimy RIGHT AFTER OPENING THE PACK for the first time.

Now my thinking is, once you open that pack, assuming you have a 40-degree or less refrigerator, it should be good for at least a week (though most "food safety" recommendations always seem to say 2-3 days -- which begs the question, what single person eats an entire pack of deli ham in three days?)

But I've found that even after a week, if it doesn't smell AT ALL (and you'll definitely pick up that sour odor if it does) I just literally run it under a cold tap and dry it on paper towels, with the theory that, if there IS a thin slimy film of bacteria on the surface, I just washed most of them off and therefore it can go a couple more days.

I don't want to extend this into a rant about excessively large portions in packages that can't be frozen (at my local grocery store, they sell beansprouts, which go bad extraordinarily quickly,) in these vast shrinkwrapped foam flats that must contain, oh, at least 8 cups. It's very cheap (99 cents) but who, even a Chinese family of six, is going to eat 8 cups of beansprouts in two days? Or 4 cups of sugar snap peas? Even some sacks of potatoes . . . an 8-lb. sack? They'll be crawling around on your kitchen floor by themselves before you get a chance to finish them. But as usual, I digress!

Anyway -- anyone think my ham theory holds water (so to speak)?

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  1. I regularly keep ham for a month or more. It's cured and will keep much longer than an uncured piece of meat. I never rinse it either.

    1. I don't know about deli ham, but a real ham that you cook yourself will freeze just fine (after cooking). You can slice small portions and freeze them for things like lunch.

      1. I find that many foods last longer under refrigeration than people think or than the expiration date indicates, but I usually trust my nose in these matters.

        1. I have found that the boar's head black forest ham from the deli counter stays in edible condition for as long as two weeks. But I have had prepackaged stuff and shop rite's black bear brand that is only good for about a week. More preservatives maybe?

          1. After university I shared a house with my brother who ate a lot of packaged ham (it's virtually all he ate).
            One day he asked my opinion on whether some ham was off.
            I took a sniff and told him that when your ham smells like prawns it's time to throw it away.
            It's a mantra that has served me well to this day.