Black Spots on Salami? What It Is, and What It Means

Italian salami has a long and storied past dating back millennia, and it’s one of the most popular cured sausages in the culinary world. It’s well-known for its distinct taste, as well as the white mold that covers its exterior.

This white fuzzy mold serves an essential purpose. It protects the meat from harmful bacteria. However, not all molds are beneficial. What if there are black spots on salami instead?

If you’re curing salami at home, the presence of black spots might be confusing and even worrisome. Depending on their appearance and texture, the black spots can either be black peppercorn or black mold. One should be in the salami, and the other certainly should not.

Read on to learn more.

black spots on salami

What Are the Black Spots on Salami?

First, let’s consider two different scenarios when it comes to black spots on salami. In the first scenario, you bought salami from the deli or supermarket, but you may not have access to a list of its ingredients.

Consequently, when you cut a slice of salami and see hard black spots, you probably won’t know that those are peppercorns unless you’re familiar with the salami-making process. These tiny black balls are just black pepper before it was grounded into a powder.

Not all salami contains black peppercorns, but most do. For some, they’re an irreplaceable ingredient that ensures salami has its trademark flavor.

However, there are black spots on salami that are less benevolent.

If you’re confident that the black spots are not peppercorn, it’s most likely the other possible scenario – black mold. The presence of black mold on salami often occurs during the homemade production of cured sausage, but not exclusively.

The black mold responsible for developing dark brown or black spots is caused by the bacteria Carnimonas nigrificans.

What Do the Black Spots on Salami Mean?

The black mold on the salami means that there was some contamination during the curing and fermentation process.

It’s possible that the environment wasn’t sterile enough or that other factors during the process weren’t optimal. Either way, seeing black mold on your salami is never a good sign.

Cured sausage, such as salami, typically contain sugars such as dextrin, maltose, or dextrose. Unfortunately, the presence of these substances only exacerbates the growth of black spots.

On the other hand, potassium bisulfite and sodium nitrite inhibit them. So, it’s also highly possible that the inaccurate quantities of sugars and nitrates help develop black spots on salami.

Can You Eat the Black Spots on Salami?

If we’re talking about black peppercorns, then yes, you can eat them, but be prepared for the heat. They’re easily removed, though, for those who prefer not to bite down on peppercorns.

Black mold, on the other hand, is not safe to eat at all. It can produce toxic chemicals called mycotoxins that can cause various allergic reactions and are generally damaging to the human respiratory system.

So, if you see black spots on salami and suspect it’s mold, you absolutely shouldn’t eat it.

layers of salami slices with black rim at the top

Can You Remove the Black Spots on Salami?

Black mold on salami is disappointing, especially if you’ve invested time and money to make salami from scratch at home. So, it’s natural to wonder if a workaround solution can eliminate the mold and still eat the salami.

The answer to this problem is nuanced and ultimately depends on personal preference. Indeed, the safest route is to discard the salami with black spots and start over.

However, if the spots are only a few and far between, you can try scrubbing them off. Water, vinegar, and salt solution can help. If you manage to remove the black mold from the casings altogether, then you might be in luck.

Keep in mind that you still need to examine the inside of the casing and look for black spots. If the black mold has penetrated inside the casing, then the salami definitely isn’t safe for consumption.

Some people will try to cut off pieces of black mold from the inside of the salami and eat the rest, but doing so doesn’t free you from potential risks.

Preventing the Development of Black Mold on Salami

When making homemade salami, it’s essential to have an authentic recipe and follow it to the last detail. Working with sterile tools is vital, too.

Toxic mold can also develop when the dried salami is stored in a room with zero ventilation. Cured sausages have an excellent shelf life, but they require sufficient ventilation.

Also, you should pay attention to the humidity level of the storage space. Ideally, the humidity should be around 45%. Anything higher than that could promote moisture retention.

Another possible strategy for thwarting black mold is to cover the casings with a beneficial mold culture, like white mold.

Black vs. White Mold on Salami

The black spots of mold on salami are certainly a cause for concern. Throwing out the contaminated salami is the best course of action. The good news is, though, that not all mold means the salami is no longer edible.

On the contrary, powdery white mold means that the salami has been appropriately cured and fermented and is safe to eat. In addition, some discolorations on the salami like light green, yellowing, or grey hues are also perfectly safe.

The while mold grows during the fermentation process but continues to spread even when the salami is drying. This is the type of mold found on other types of dried meat and some types of cheese.

It has a meaningful function and enhances the flavor of the food. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with black mold. So even if you see white mold next to black mold on the salami, it still doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat it.

stacked salami with white mold

In Summary

Black mold has a well-deserved bad reputation, and many people know that they should avoid it. Noticing black mold is easier in some types of food than others, though.

With salami and other cured sausage, the presence of black spots can be somewhat confusing at first. You might not be sure whether you’re looking at peppercorns or something else and while pepper is spicy yet safe, black mold on salami is a huge problem.

You can try scrubbing it off the casings, but the safest route is to throw it away.

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