With a centuries-old production process, this ham will flavor your Labor Day gathering.
For Central Texans, savoring the very best of French cuisine usually involves a 5,000+ mile flight. Now, local lovers of the finest-prepared hams can enjoy the best of this ancient and wondrous tradition with a quick trip to their nearest Central Market.
Bayonne Ham hails from the Basque region located at the merging of France and Spain, and follows a rigorous preparation process, much like sparkling wine from the Champagne region. Located in the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France, this ham is the result of a thousand years of tradition, know-how, and respect for the process. It all begins with the home of the pig. To qualify to be Bayonne Ham, pigs must be born and bred in Southwest France, and curing must take place within the Adour River basin.
The preparation process is extremely complex and involves incredible attention to detail, including being covered with a thick layer of salt, resting in salting rooms, drying at low temperatures in artificially created winter conditions, where the long maturing process gradually enhances the flavors, aromas, and tenderness.
A mixture of pork fat and flour is applied to the ham’s muscular parts, making for a gentler drying process during the long maturing period where the ham acquires all its qualities and reveals its personality: mild flavors, balanced saltiness, and delicate aromas. On average, it takes nine to 12 months to make a Bayonne Ham. To ensure its perfection, experts sample the product throughout the process.
The final, highly symbolic step involves adding the “Bayonne” seal. A Basque cross or “Lauburu” is applied with a hot branding iron to all Bayonne Hams that have followed the requirements at every step of the production process. For consumers, this seal is an assurance that the product is of a quality meeting the standard of kings, including King Henri IV and Louis XIV.
For Texans who want to add regal quality to their Labor Day party, Bayonne Ham is highly adaptable, simple to prepare, and always appreciated by guests.
Here in Texas, where Charcuterie boards are enjoying their own Renaissance, Bayonne Ham is a natural accompaniment. Serve the ham in strips along with freshly baked bread, local cheeses, dried fruits, Hill Country peaches, locally harvested pecans, pickles, olives, and of course, your favorite Texas wine.
You could create your own locally flavored tapas. Wrap Bayonne Ham around goat cheese, artichokes, asparagus, or even large Gulf shrimp. Go full-Basque and roll the ham into a paper cone, or stuff it with Texas avocadoes, or even Queso!
Going for a Mexican flair? Wrap your favorite stuffed jalapenos in Bayonne Ham and grill it on your smoker. I know, we had you at smoker. For a French-inspired fish dinner, wrap or stuff the cavity of a Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, or Carp in ham. As you grill, the ham’s succulent flavors will be slowly imparted into the fish.
Whichever way you serve Bayonne Ham, whether traditional, Texas-style, or international, you will be treating your guests like royalty.
Story by Mark and Ralph Yznaga. Charcuterie photos by Ralph Yznaga. Other photos courtesy of Bayonne Ham. #weloveourpartners