So many great French specialities have a story woven around them and the ham of Bayonne is no exception. This ham legend begins in the 14th century. M. Gaston Phoebus, out looking for supper, got lucky and killed a wild boar. Unfortunately, it seems that the boar fell into some salted water and M. Phoebus had to go home empty-handed. But never fear, while wondering around the next year, he came upon his previously killed boar and voila! it was perfectly preserved ~ Bayonne ham was born. True or not, this quality, air-dried ham, similiar to the better known Italian prosciutto, has been on the menu around the area since at least the 14th century.
Today, producers follow strict guidelines before their hams are stamped with the Basque Cross or Lauburu, topped with the name Bayonne, signifying the real thing. The hams are salted using salt from the Adour and the region around Salies then hung to dry for a minimum of nine months. Some producers also rub their hams with the regional piment d’Espelette powder.
If you are in the region around Easter time, don’t miss the Foire au Jambon. This celebration of all things ham began in 1426! Producers are on hand to whisper their curing secrets and of course give you a little taste of this delectable, heavenly ham.