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Italian deli meats are not only delicious but also practical. The Italians have a history of developing and perfecting a myriad of ways to preserve and dry meat for long-term food storage. But the processes also produce an interesting smell and taste that accompanies the meat. Pancetta is one such product that’s peculiar in its aroma and flavor.
But, does pancetta smell bad? It doesn’t smell bad per se. But, pancetta has a unique odor. This is because pancetta is a dried and cured pork product. The ingredients and fermentation process is what gives it its distinguished smell. However, if there’s a horrid and nasty odor emanating from the meat, then it might have exceeded its expiration.
For newcomers to pancetta, the smell might take you off-guard at first. But this comes from its process of fermentation with herbs and other ingredients over a long period of time. However, pancetta can go bad, which comes with its own kind of pungency.
What Does Fresh Pancetta Smell Like?
First, understand this isn’t a “fresh” meat because of its drying and curing process. The smell of fresh pancetta is a bit difficult to describe since it combines several different smells. There’s a salami-type odor to it, but it’s a little more pronounced that that.
If you can imagine it, it blends the sweet smell of bacon or ham with a tinge of salt. But, it’s not going to have the same lactic tangy scent as a piece of straight bacon or pork belly. That said, there’s a sharpness to pancetta with an earthy under taste that isn’t musty or dirty.
You can think of it also in terms of cheeses like brie, parmesan or camembert but not something akin to limburger. There’s a fermentation smell, like a brine resembling a “foot” odor that combines herbal flavors like fennel and nutmeg. Therefore, it’s an odd or strange smell, but it isn’t necessarily “bad.”
Is Pancetta the Same as Prosciutto?
No, pancetta is not the same as prosciutto although they are both in the same class of Italian deli meats. They undergo different lengths of drying; prosciutto takes a year whereas pancetta dries for about three months. But, if you’ve ever tasted prosciutto before, it’s much stronger and pungent than pancetta.
Should Pancetta Smell Sour?
Many people report that the thicker, cubed style of pancetta does have a more sour smell. The tanginess is due to its curing, fermenting and subsequent packaging. This doesn’t mean it expired or went bad. It’s a bit of a different product than the normal thin-sliced pancetta.
What Does Pancetta Smell Like When It Goes Bad?
The first sign that pancetta has gone bad is if you open the package and its original odor is far stronger than it should be. This can also accompany a smell that’s moldy, musty or even something like a strong vinegar. But, the best way to know for sure you have bad pancetta is by the appearance of the meat itself.
What Does Bad Pancetta Look Like?
If the meat doesn’t have a pinkish red color with creamy white fat, chances are, it’s bad. If it looks dry or discolored in any capacity, it’s best to stay on the safe side and toss it out. Likewise, if you see red, black or white fuzzy spots all over the meat, this is mold and you shouldn’t eat it. Throw it away immediately.
How Long Does Pancetta Keep after Buying It?
As long as the package stays closed after you buy it, pancetta should keep in your refrigerator for up to three weeks. But, once the meat comes into contact with oxygen, it will last for only about a week or less. So, to ensure it keeps as long as possible in the fridge, place it into an air-tight container after opening.
However, if you individually wrap each slice in non-greasy paper in a freezer-safe bag, you can store it up to six months in the freezer. This way you can pull them out individually as you need them for recipes and such. You pull it out and let it thaw for about 10 minutes before eating or cooking with it.
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