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"Best by dates"

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
The bottom line is, I regard all sales persons and vendors as liars and reject everything they say about what they're selling. Unhappily, I love Deli cold-cuts, I stand there in front of the counter and drool, but I always buy the vacuum prepackaged stuff because there's a date on it. When I raised this concern with the store manager, his eyes rolled back into his head in abject pain. In a tone of voice I used to use on girls alleging nothing but pristine intentions, the manager told me that the traffic was so brisk at the Deli counter, that his luncheon meats were sold in a wink. I don't believe in a million years that anyone checks the date (if any) on those huge loaves of cold-cuts in the display case — they'll keep slicing until green hair starts to grow on it.

Am I a little cuckoo on this subject or what?
post #2 of 18
I buy pre-packaged not so much because of the best before date but I don't trust deli counter attendants to clean their slicers. Deli sliced at the plant is more rigourously controlled for regular cleaning.
post #3 of 18
Those "best-by" labels are just a guess. I take them into consideration. Shelf life is usually good past then, but I still like fresher.
post #4 of 18
Know your providers - it's that simple. With very rare exceptions I don't buy any prepackaged products. Today was an exception as I bought a small package of frozen turkey breast meat cutlets for my cat at a busy Trader Joe's. Buddy needed his turkey and it was getting too late to drive across town to the poultry store I regularly frequent.

Shel
post #5 of 18
The eating quality of a vacuum packed piece of prosciutto or salame is not nearly as good as that of a freshly sliced piece. There is no way. The compression in the vacuum package ruins the texture, sort of makes it feel like plastic. I buy it when i don;t know how much i'll want in a week, or if i'll want it that week or the next, because once sliced, prosciutto et al gets dry and worse than when it's vacuum packed. But if i'm eating it for lunch that same day, no way i'd buy vacuum packed.
Also, keep in mind that salting and dry-curing meat was the only form of preservation before refrigeration. That's how we have such nice things like prosciutto and salame. They last a lot longer than you might imagine.

That said, one of the first things i buy when i go back to the states is "italian style" roast beef - so tasty with black pepper. (It's not really italian style, of course, because no italian would eat rare beef and most avoid black pepper like the plague, possibly it's italian-american style! but i love it and can't get it here.) But i always wondered about this roast beef at deli counters, and how it;s preserved. How long can a roast meat keep? I buy it anyway, it's just too good, but do they do soemthing besides just roast it to make it last? I certainly wouldn;t keep a home roast for so many days.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #6 of 18
Well "best by" dates are usually on the money for me. On milk, it's pretty accurate. I don't often buy things from the butcher, because there's only one and the prices are outrageous, so I can't exactly say I have much experience with meats from them.
post #7 of 18
Hi Bigfoot,

It's hard to believe anybody on this subject that is why when it comes to supermarket deli meats, I buy for one week only (packaged or sliced) regardless of the best before date.
The second I see any graying (lost of pink) I chuck the thing. If a pink deli meat turns gray then it means it has lost its preserving chemicals (nitrite, erythorbate, ascorbate, etc) and can become a little dangerous to consume.
More illnesses have been attributed to supermarket sliced deli meats then pre-packaged stuff (in Canada). So prepackaged seems more reliable.

As Siduri alluded to, deli meats originally were invented as a way to preserve meats for a long time (1 year or more) but the way to attain that is with a combination of drying and acidifying the meat. That is done by adding salt which draws water out and a bacterial culture with sugar that acidifies the meat. This process is called dry-cure, These types of product are stable for a long time at room temperature. They are mostly found in specialty shops. Just salting is another technique (i.e prosciutto). Unfortunately both techniques are becoming a lost art.
About 20 years ago, in Montreal, health and safety inspectors forced some Polish delis to refrigerate their kielbasa sausages instead of hanging them. They would mold. Today the rules have changed taking moisture levels and acidity into consideration.

In the past pepperoni and salami used to mean a dry-cured sausage. Today, pepperoni and salami are cooked sausage in a vacuum pack. The latter helps to sell more water, cut on curing time, expertise, space and storage and, since the product is perishable, sell more product more often. The sacrifice: Taste and texture.

Siduri,
I heard that Italians hate black pepper because there's an Italian saying that goes: Basil and pepper do not make a good marriage. In other words. cooking with both basil and pepper is incompatible. Ever since I heard that, I have taken out black pepper in my Spaghetti sauce and found it did eliminate an aftertaste i did not like. So I guess, if you like cooking with basil you have a hard time incorporating pepper.

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #8 of 18
A recent article in Cook's Illustrated wrote off prepackaged cold cuts in general as "not worth buying."

So, I don't. I go to sausage places or Italian delis where the sliced meats move pretty fast. I have Boback's (Chicago sausagemaker) just down the street, so I'm in good shape.

Watch out for those hamburger patties, though!

Mike
travelling gourmand
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travelling gourmand
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post #9 of 18
I'll buy pre-packaged or deli meats, and like others, only buy for the week. I make sure to buy from a very busy store when getting deli meats, so I know they're churning thru quickly. I've never had a problem.

But oh lord once I made the mistake of buying already opened oysters from a deli counter (same busy place!) - never again. Took one wiff of them when I got them home and into the bin they went.

Which is odd because their other seafood has always been good - bad day to choose the oyters I guess.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #10 of 18
i only buy deli meat that is enough for one or 2 servings unless im doing a big platter of something , then its almost always eaten on the day of purchase or one day later at the very most. occassionaly i buy prepacked stuff but not that often
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #11 of 18
Hi Luc H
That's interesting. I never heard that about basil and pepper, even after 35 years in italy, but it could be a local saying. I use them together, because i use black pepper in everything. I never noticed any problem with an aftertaste but it may be an aftertaste i actually like, i don;t know. But the fact is that basil is not used in all that many dishes, after all - usually not in meats, for instance, where rosemary is the favored herb (which, for me, makes everything taste the same) but pepper is still not used. I also think it might be a regional thing . The reason most people give around here (Rome) is that it's bad for you.
Anyway, i guess i'm lucky to get real prosciutto, real salame, and countless other real cold cuts (including huge mortadellas that have to be set up on a sort of saw horse to be cut, maybe 4 or more feet in length and a good foot in diameter - with real pistachios - i won;t tell you the meat it;s traditionally made with.) Still, that roast beef with the black pepper... yum.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #12 of 18
Thanks Siduri for replying on that pepper question.
I heard it a couple of times in the local Italian community and once on TV (local chef).
I always wondered if it was a old wife's tale or something until I took out the black pepper in my spag sauce and noticed a difference. I use basil and pepper together in other things but no longer in long simmering foods.
Funny to hear that Italians think pepper is not good for you (grin).
(One thing for sure, you are in Deli heaven!!)

Luc H
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #13 of 18
Over the years I have read many many recipes that suggest using black black pepper, but only adding it towards the end, or at the end, of the process.

Shel
post #14 of 18
I actually like to enhance the black pepper taste by grinding coarsely and putting it directly into the sautee (oil and onion or whatever base i'm using, or just in the pan i'm going to cook a piece of meat in) and i definitely cook it in stews and sauces.
What i find, however, is that it's basil that i don;t like simmered. I think basil should be put on after the sauce or whatever it is has finished cooking, so it doesn;t cook. Basil changes flavor noticeably when cooked, and personally, i don;t like it. If i make a simple tomato sauce i like to put basil on it in the dish.
Maybe what you find is an off taste, Luc, is the basil that's been simmered.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
re: Luc_H post

I got an education on meat preservation beyond my wildest expectation, it's hard to believe how innocent I was of any knowledge on the subject. I was sufficiently inspired to investigate my concerns further, and I've concluded that my real problem is that I live in a mickey mouse town that has two supermarkets with "deli" counters.

I asked around and discovered that in a nearby city, I have access to a real "delicatessen"the kind of European foodstuffs mentioned by Siduri. Maybe, I'll also find some decent olive oil as well as genuine quality cold-cuts. American marketing is truly wondrous, you can find horse meat from China packaged as "genuine Genoa Salami" in our market (that's known as imaginative entrepreneurialism).

Thanks to Siduri I'll know better than to expect black pepper with rare meat in Rome, but only a barbarian would order roast beef in Rome — that would be like going to Paris to eat hot dogs.
post #16 of 18
Nice to read the post really help setting you on a track to becoming an epicurean!!!!
Always glad to help

Luc H.
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #17 of 18
Yes, unless you are dying to have a nice roast beef sandwich and you live there! I have been known to buy it and it's not bad, but there's no pepper. It really makes a difference.

For a traveller, though, there is no reason. It's like Italians who go abroad and insist on eating italian, then they come home saying americans, french, chinese, greeks, etc, don;t know how to cook. Of course, they don;t cook italian food like in italy, but it's foolish to think they would.
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
Reply
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #18 of 18
I remember when there was no such thing as 'best by' dates. We used to just know by the look and the smell of a food whether it was still good to eat. Its amazing how many will throw out something just because of that little date on the packaging.

I can usually tell at the deli counter whether the foods look fresh or not and will always buy at the deli counter before buying something in packaging. It pretty much always tastes better.
Jenyfari from Only Cookware and Only Cookware Blog - A Consumer Guide to Cookware
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Jenyfari from Only Cookware and Only Cookware Blog - A Consumer Guide to Cookware
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