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I recently bought a whole bunch of really good, freshly-cut prosciutto in Italy, and I plan to eat it in about a week or two. However, I'm reluctant to stick it in the fridge until that time. In my experience, when I put deli meats or cheese in the fridge, they start to lose their flavor and texture pretty quickly, even if carefully wrapped in butcher paper. Also, in the past, I've carried around a vacuuum-sealed packet of freshly cut jamon iberico for about two weeks without refrigeration, and it did not suffer at all for it. (My current prosciutto bundle is vacuum-sealed as well.) This makes sense to me because it's a cured meat after all, but maybe it was a fluke and I'm totally off.

Is it OK to play it safe and avoid the refrigerator? Or should I stick it in the fridge ASAP? (It's already been out for a few days.) It's my utmost priority that the prosciutto feel and taste as close to fresh as possible! If I take it out and it's stiff and flavorless, I'm going to cry.

In addition to the prosciutto, I also have some mortadella. My understanding is that it's not "cured" like prosciutto is. Should it be treated differently?

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Mortadella does need to be refrigerated.

As for the proscuitto ... if it's real cured ham (and not the fake 'cured' stuff you get in the US) and was trimmed with a clean knife and wasn't otherwise contaminated when being cut, and it's not the middle of the summer where you are, it's likely fine being stored in a cool area of your kitchen.

Mind you, the US FDA would't agree, and you would get cited for health code violations if you were a restaurant. You may also want to be more cautious if you're going to be serving the meat to people with compromised or otherwise weak immune systems (eg, small children or the infirm).

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    A couple of years back, Food Network had a special where their chefs had to host a banquet with only discarded/unsellable food. A butcher gave Anne Burrell the fattier remaining portion of a proscuitto ... but she didn't keep it below 140°F, so the health inspector wouldn't let her use it. She made a comment that she'd take it home and use it. I think she also commented on the absurdity of having to keep chilled something that sat at room temp for months. – Joe Jan 4 '15 at 18:44
  • @Jolenealaska : yes, yes I did. – Joe Jan 4 '15 at 20:58
  • Nah, it's just me pigging out. :) – Archagon Jan 4 '15 at 21:28
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Just want to report that I've since opened all my meats and put them in the refrigerator. They are stored as follows: stuck to butcher paper and plastic as packaged by the deli, then placed inside their original plastic sleeves, then all together wrapped loosely in butcher paper, and then finally placed inside a large zip-lock bag and compressed to let as much of the air out as possible. It's been about four days, and I am happy to report that once brought to room temperature, the quality and texture still appear to be as good as fresh.

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My usual hiking partners and I have used prosciutto on several camping trips lasting between 5 and 14 days all mid summer. We have never had a problem with cured meats not being refrigerated. They taste great and have never given any of us any stomach issues. Salted pork has been around for a lot longer than refrigeration has. However as with anything read with caution and take advise at your own risk.

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