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Bayonne Ham: 1,000 Years of Delectable Tradition
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According to
legend, Bayonne ham was a product of some very unique circumstances.  Many centuries ago, a Frenchman named Gaston
Fébus injured a wild boar during a hunt, but the boar got away.  A couple of months later, other hunters found
the boar in the salt water spring in Salies de Béarn.  The animal had been perfectly preserved.  This is how the salting process of Bayonne
ham began in the Adour River Basin.  

The unique
climate of the Adour River Basin is what gives the Bayonne ham its flawless
flavor.  Winds from the south, known as
“Foehn”, rise from the Pyrénees mountains and provide prime conditions for
proper drying of the meats. These winds couple with moist air flowing in from
the Atlantic Ocean which bestow these hams with their particularly tender
texture.

Bayonne ham
was granted Protected Geographical Identification status is 1998.  Salting and ageing must be carried out in the
Adour River Basin in order for it to be classified as Bayonne ham.  The salting and ageing process follow very
strict guidelines that follow the 4 natural seasons of the Adour Basin.  Salting in the winter, rest in the spring,
drying in the summer, and ageing in the fall.
Whole fresh hams are rubbed and then covered with salt from the Adour
River Basin.  The curing is done in a low
temperature room to artificially create winter conditions.  After salting, the hams are hung for a few
weeks in a cool and well ventilated room that resembles the conditions of
spring weather.  In summer, the hams are
placed in special drying rooms where the long ageing process begins.  The muscular parts of the ham are covered
with a mixture of pork fat and flour.
This process is called “pannage”.
Pannage allows the meat to dry very slowly over the long ageing
process.  The final step of the slow
ageing comes in autumn, when the ham takes on all of its unique quality and
character: sweet flavor, balanced saltiness, and a delicate aroma.  During this harvest period, the ham goes
through a rigorous “PGI selection process”.
If they are certified top quality, they receive an official Basque Cross
brand and can be declared a Bayonne ham.

Our staff
“reviewed” a chunk of Bayonne ham and the sample went missing almost
instantly.  Here are a couple Zuercher
employee reviews:

-“A great salt balance with a hint
of game.  Nice full ham flavor”

-“I like the subtleness of this ham.  It doesn’t
have the intense saltiness that Prosciutto di Parma has but still retains the
meaty/nuttiness that cured hams have.”

-“Fresh herbal flavors with a soft melt in your mouth
texture.”

Try pairing Bayonne ham with a sparkling wine
from southern France.  The uniform
saltiness of the ham solicits a combination with bubbles.