This delicious dry ham from Bayonne is an essential element of the Basque gastronomy. This fine and tasty cured ham is a speciality of the South-West mountainous regions of France. The Bayonne ham is usually served on its own – wafer thinly sliced - or with fresh melon to fully appreciate its flavour.
Bayonne ham is appreciated worldwide for its delicate taste and gorgeous colour. Indeed, this refined product from the South-West of France results from the traditional fiddly process of creating a ham. After having trimmed the ham, Aquitaine producers salt the skin - with regional sea salt from the Adour estuary or Bearn. Then the traditional Bayonne ham is left hanging in the airy drying room - at a temperature of 6-8°c - so that the salt draws the moisture out and the flesh absorbs the salt back in. Such hygienical preservation with salt enables to keep the whole leg for years and guarantees its distinctive, refined flavour.
The traditional Bayonne ham must be at least 7 months old before it is offered for sale. The best way to preserve its typical taste is to keep the ham in a cool (8°c) dry atmosphere.
We must admit that the Bayonne ham is not the only one air dried ham used for gourmet dishes - the Prosciutto di San Daniele and Parma hams from Italia and Jamon Serranoabugo and Jamon Pata Negra hams from Spain are also widely known.
But what makes this typical ham of the South of France really different from its Europeans "cousins" is that its skin is traditionnally covered by a thin layer of Piment d'Espelette. Indeed, the Espelette red pepper belongs to the most gourmet condiments and spices from South-Western France and it gives a unique tang to the fine French ham.
Top Tip! To go further, you can experience the Basque festival called “la Foire au Jambon” that is organised each Easter in the ancient city of Bayonne. This local fair includes a "ham market" and an annual regional competition to find the best producer of traditional Bayonne Ham. But you can also taste and buy variations of the French ham during the popular and lively Bayonne Feasts (known under their Spanish name, Ferias) in August!