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, hams have a massage, to remove all the blood marks and the veins. Thirdly: the drying. They remove the coat of salt from the hams and the meat lose water. The drying could last 18 months!
King of France François I’s sister, Marguerite de 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.″
And 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 salt and dry in the Adour basin (area near Bayonne), and the meat has to come from South-West France only (Aquitaine, Poitou, Midi-Pyrénées…).