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A little history of the ham from Bayonne

The ham ageing | Peyre / CC-BY-SA

What’s this?

In South-West France, they made ham in Bayonne since the Middle Ages!

We can eat it cold, as a starter (yum, delicious with a melon). First, we have the salting.

They rub the ham with salt from Salies-de-Béarn, and they put it in the cold salting room for about 10 days. The meat will absorb the salt.

Secondly, the ham have a massage, to remove all the blood marks and the veins.

Thirdly: the drying. They remove the coat of salt from the ham and the meat lose water.

The drying can last 18 months!

The little history

King of France François I’s sister, Marguerite of Navarre, loved that ham!

She even wrote about it in one of her tales: ″I will give you the best Basque ham that you ever ate″.

And Rabelais, the famous 16th century author, wrote in his famous novel Gargantua: ″Grandgousier liked to eat and drink a lot, and he ate especially savoury meals, like hams from Mainz and Bayonne.″

This speciality has a I.G.P. label (Indication Géographique Protégée, ″Protected Geographical Indication″), since 1998.

But to get this label, our ham has to be salted and dried in the Adour basin (area near Bayonne), and the meat has to come from South-West France only (Aquitaine, Poitou, Midi-Pyrénées…).

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!