According to The Guardian, some British ham producers have also dropped nitrites, even though yes, the final product does taste a little different without them. Cured meats can easily be distinguished from uncured meats by their texture, color and aroma. When we eat them, the bacteria in our mouths (and yes, we all have it), converts some of the nitrates to nitrites, and they're a little different. Note that some of these terms have at least partially overlapping meanings and can have slightly different meanings depending on the context: There are different forms of fermentation. And in those cases, they're a good thing. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? There's actually a variety of uncured meats out there. They work so well that they're even an active ingredient in some medications, so... what gives, science? This is how the alcohol gets in the wine, beer, mead, and spirits we drink (although the spirits have been further concentrated by subsequent distillation). Being a foodie might be trendy in today's world, but cured meats? We know because of cave paintings discovered in Sicily, and we suspect we would have used a combination of salt from evaporated sea water and ash from plants to promote the curing and drying process. It's important to note that not all cured meats contain nitrites and in fact, slow-cured and nitrite-free meats are becoming more and more popular. And there's some good news: in spite of their warnings, the World Health Organization says (via The Telegraph) that you don't have to give it up completely... just, mostly. These different types of preserved foods vary in their technique as well as how difficult they are to accomplish. But it's all a balancing act — if it happens too slow, bacteria grows. However, I do believe they fit the theme of my site because the most important thing is having fun with food and expanding your repertoire of what you can do and make. The BBC says in order to be considered a legitimate example of Iberian jamon, the meat must come from a black Iberian pig raised on fresh pasture and acorns from the oak trees of Jabugo in Andalucia. One of the best places I know to buy supplies for cooking with fire is SpitJack.com. Are there good options out there? In case you're not up on your science, you might know potassium nitrate by another name: saltpetre. Then there's other kinds like bologna, liverwurst, and mortadella, and those all kind of look similar, too. Listen to all the hype, and it's easy to believe that nitrates are bad. There's also the flavor change, the extended shelf life (and less waste), and nitrites' ability to stop bacteria from growing. They were actually talking about a whole bunch of different kinds of meat, but the world only heard one thing: bacon causes cancer. It's that pink color, isn't it? Despite being made from a different part of pork, it slightly resembles pancetta, but it has a more flavorful taste. But in the following years, more scientific studies continued to find links between eating processed and cured meats and higher risks of developing certain types of cancers. Let’s take a look.Curing is actually a general term referring to any process that helps preserve meat. One you may be familiar with is alcoholic fermentation, by which sugars in the food/drink are converted to ethanol, the alcohol in alcoholic drinks. We all know that if you take some fresh, raw chicken breasts out of the fridge and set them on the stove only to get distracted by something, you're not going to want to eat them if you only make it back into the kitchen a few hours later. We thought so. But it's not that straightforward, says the BBC, and around 80 percent of the nitrates we ingest come not from processed meats but from vegetables. And are they still edible? Absolutely! The product is called Naked Bacon, and it's flavored with a recipe of Mediterranean spice and fruit extracts instead of the usual nitrites. Besides being one of the best options for fireplace cooking supplies (fireplace grills, rotisseries, cranes, long-handled roasters, etc. But The Guardian put it this way: globally, 34,000 cancer-related deaths each and every year were linked to processed meats. You'll sometimes hear "curing" and "processing" talked about in the same way, so what's the difference? Today, they're raised in a Unesco-protected patch of land notable for the massive trees that produce enough acorns to feed the pigs,which are only slaughtered when they're about 3 years old. Dry curing, on the other hand, just involves the salt mix being rubbed into the meat. Bummer. Not all cured meats are created equal, but one thing they do all have in common is a sky-high sodium content. Saying we've been curing meat for a long time is no exaggeration — in fact, it doesn't really do the process justice. So here's a question: Do you know what cured meats actually are? The WHO eventually issued a statement telling everyone to stop overreacting, and the meat industry kicked into damage control mode. No one is quite sure when we stumbled across the idea of nitrites, but the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service says it was the ancient Romans who first noticed how cured meat changed color to take on a deeper red color once the process was complete. In 1993, all Italian producers of Parma ham dropped nitrites from their processes. Unfortunately, there's a lot we don't know about our history with cured meats. Other forms of fermentation occur in many types of sausages and in cheeses. Then, the meat is buried in salt for several weeks, hung in an open storehouse for a year and a half, and then cured in a basement for another four or five years. On that note, some people refer to it as ‘the belly pork of cured meat’. Think of it more as an occasional treat than a regular meal, and there's nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence. For meats and fish, it fundamentally alters the structure of the muscle, making more tender, preserving moisture and bringing out tremendous flavor. But over the last few years I’ve grown to love making cured meat and other naturally preserved foods such as fermented, dried and smoked foods. You can get good at curing meat too! Curing meat, fermenting foods and other natural ways of preserving foods are something that I’ve relatively recently gotten into. There's two major different types of curing: one is a wet process, and the other is a dry. It's so bad, in fact, that the American Heart Association lists cured meats and cold cuts on their Salty Six chart for both adults and children. But still, you could say you did it, right? According to The National Center for Home Food Preservation, curing meat means that a salt-based concoction (along with sugar and nitrites/nitrates) has been used to preserve not just the meat itself, but also the color and flavor of the piece. Glance into the meat cases at any grocery store and you’ll see a whole slew of cured meat products, some of which look raw and some of which look like they could survive a cross-country back packing trip. Look at it this way — the AHA recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg, and ideally, you should actually be shooting for 1500 mg. Ham, on average, has 1117 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving (via Healthline). Once again, this cured meat hails from the country of Italy. In addition to preserving the food and preventing the growth of unhealthy bacteria which could spoil food or make it unsafe to eat, all methods for curing meat use salt. Cured meats are simply one type of processed meats, as "processing" refers to anything that's done to a piece of meat that results in an extended shelf life or change in taste (via the BBC). According to the BBC, there's a bit of a debate going on about just what piece of cured ham is the oldest. The nitrates in beets, for example, have been linked to lower blood pressure. However, they quickly discovered that in addition to the natural preservative properties of salted, dried and fermented foods, the process also brought out great depth of flavor and complexity the likes of which were only hinted at in the raw ingredients. According to Walden Labs, we've been curing meat since at least 40,000 BC. Not all cured meat is created equal, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most expensive type is the Manchado de Jabugo Iberian ham. In large pieces of meat, there's a bit of a problem: If the salt is just on the outside, the bacteria inside will grow faster than the moisture evaporates.