Do you like ham? Smoked or cooked according to various recipes, it’s delicious. It may be a big tamale during the celebration. However, what shall you do with leftover food? Freezing is a fast and easy way to preserve meat. However, how long can you freeze ham before it goes bad? How to keep it safe, preventing mold growth? Do freezing temperatures affect acceptable storage duration? Let’s try to answer these important questions.
Freezing Temperatures and Conditions
According to popular belief, food can be stored in a freezer for a long time. According to USDA, freezing keeps food safe. It may be stored constantly. The only condition is that the temperature should not exceed 0°F.
Freezing preserves food. It prevents growth of various microorganisms, such as:
Freezing temperatures don’t kill bacteria, except parasites. Cold just prevents germs from multiplying. Additionally, most modern freezers have dry environment. It promotes retarding chemical reactions. Therefore, leftover food, par example, sliced ham is to be kept from crusting. Pack it to quality containers for freezing food initially to prolong its storage life.
Drawbacks of Freezing
Meanwhile, modern freezers maintain temperature of about 14°. It’s recognized as safe. The temperature maintains good foods quality. However, probability of thawing increases, if:
- Door is opened several times a day.
- It’s kept open for a long time.
- Power outage happens.
Microorganisms remain alive in a freezer. In the case of thawing, they multiply rapidly. Repeated freezing and thawing is not safe, especially in meat. It increases bacteria growth. Do the best jars for freezing prevent thawing? I think top-quality ones retard it.
Meanwhile, being completely safe, constant freezing still affects food quality. It doesn’t destroy nutrients. However, low temperatures cause 20-25% loss of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables. It slows down enzyme activity. Freezing meat is not highly recommended, as it affects its color, texture, odor and appearance.
How Long Can You Keep Food in the Freezer?
Virtually all foods may be frozen. Only canned foods and salads are not recommended being exposed to freezing temperatures. Raw eggs in the shell would expand and crack in a freezer. Meanwhile, safe storage time depends on the food type.
Frozen Food Storage Temperature
|Food||Description||40°F and below||0° and below|
|Fresh meat||lamb, pork and beef||3-5 days||4-12 months|
|Fresh poultry||chicken or turkey||1-2 days||9-12 months|
|Soups||with meat or vegetables||3-4 days||2-3 months|
|Leftovers||cooked meat and poultry||3-4 days||2-6 months|
|Bacon and sausage||fully cooked||1 week||1 month|
How to Freeze Vegetables and Fruits
Vegetables and fruits are not as perishable as meat. Their flavor and nutrients are retained. They are safely stored in a fridge for 8-12 months. Rapid (cryogenic) chilling is beneficial. It helps to preserve vitamins and nutrients. Meanwhile, it’s recommended to label fruits before putting them in freezing containers for food. Original packaging may be also used. If it contains thawing instructions, read and follows them.
Can you freeze ham sandwiches? According to the chart, the time to store ham is different. It depends on its type, kind and cut. Sandwiches are similar to hot dogs and pizza. They may be specified as leftovers. So, eat them in 1-2 months after the party at the latest.
Types of Ham
Ham is a leg of pig or a piece of pork meat from a leg cut. It can be fresh, cooked or preserved, using smoking, dry or wet curing method. The dishes are common during all big holidays and family celebrations in the USA.
In terms of form and cut, ham is:
- bone-in (whole);
- partially boned;
Par example, can you freeze ham on the bone? Yes, but you would need a large freezer bag or container. Storing meat in smaller portions is much more convenient. Afterward, you grab a piece of meat you can serve and eat at once.
Wet curing involves injecting meat with a curing solution or immersing it in a brine. Multiple ingredients are added for flavors, such as sugar, salt, sodium nitrite or nitrate. Honey and spices may be also added, according to the recipe. Therefore, ham’s weight and volume increase up to 4%. Afterward, it can be cooked or smoked.
Rubbed with salt and dry-cure ingredients, such as potassium chloride or sodium chloride, ham is less prone to going bad. The method draws out moisture. Meat weight is reduced by 18-25%. Without sufficient water content, bacteria can’t multiply. Therefore, dry-cured ham can be stored at room temperature for several months.
Can You Freeze Serrano Ham?
Besides the cooking way and form, ham is distinguished by its origin. Every piece of meat comes with a specific name. Par example, it may be labeled as:
- Prosciutto (Italian);
- Serrano (Spanish);
- Bayonne (French);
- Smithfield (coming from Virginia).
Most of these ham types, including Serrano and Parma, are dry-cured. The cooking method common to Southern US states, such as Virginia, is called country. The ham is salt-cured, standing out by mellow taste and addictive aroma of spices. Anyway, meat is salted and aged for several months. Nevertheless, it’s kept safe in the freezer during a month only. Why? Because ham is thinly sliced or diced.
Can You Freeze a Spiral Ham?
Spiral sliced ham is very popular food. It’s pre-cut, simplifying cooking and serving. How would you thaw and cook the whole pork leg? It can be served only for a Christmas dinner. The leg would be sufficient to feed a crowd.
Before freezing, prepare the ham.
- Divide it into usable portions.
- Place every portion in a bag or container.
- Remove air or put the lid on.
- Label every bag.
Date of freezing is to be specified. Fortunately, top-quality containers are transparent. So you see the content, its color and condition. Meanwhile, the best way to freeze spiral cut ham implies using aluminum foil. Wrap it, especially if the ham is glazed. Being unpacked, it might cause freezer burn.
What Happens if You Eat Bad Ham?
Spoilt ham is easy to determine. It may be recognized by:
- texture changes.
Ham has a distinctive color. Due to the application of sodium nitrate, it’s rosy pink. Both cooked and uncooked meat is pink. So, if your ham is grey, green or brown, throw it away. Moldy spots show bacteria growth. They produce mycotoxins that are poisoning. Additionally, unpleasant smell that is funky or like decay hints that the ham is not edible anymore. If you thaw and eat bad ham, you get sick.
So, can you eat a ham that has been frozen for 2 years? It’s not recommended. If the temperature in the freezer is below 0° F and constant, the ham may be still edible. However, do you remember how many times you opened the door? You may forget about a black-out that happened a year ago. Do you still want to risk? I think it’s not worth it. Better, divide your ham into small portions. Pack it to top-quality containers and eat it fresh and delicious.