It is sweet tasting, air-dried, boneless ham that doesn’t need cooking. You use it as you would prosciutto, though it is sliced a bit more thickly.
Only one breed of pig is used, a Basque breed called “Pie Noir” (“black food”) that is mottled black and white like a Jersey cow. It’s allowed to forage and graze on acorns, chestnuts, corn and various roots. The pig is slaughtered during the winter, aged 12 to 15 months, weighing between 265 and 350 pounds (120 to 160 kg.)
The ham is rubbed with salt, saltpetre, sugar, pepper and herbs. The salt used is harvested from the banks of the Adour river, at saltworks such as Salies (40 km from the city of Bayonne), or at Dax, Bayonne, Mouguerre, Urcuit, Briscous, or Oraas. The ham is then hung for a period ranging from several days to weeks in a cool room. Then it is air-dried for a minimum of 7 months.
Part way through the air-drying , the top exposed part of the leg (the part that is not covered in skin) is rubbed with a rub that includes lard and flour. Some have their outsides rubbed with ground Espelette peppers as well.
It is then lightly-smoked.
The meat comes out a dark red. It is sold at deli counters and in sealed plastic packages, sliced.
Bayonne Ham received its European PGI status on 7 October 1998, and its production is governed by the Consortium du Jambon de Bayonne. It can only be made in the following places: Made in Aquitaine (specifically Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot et Garonne, Pyrénées- Atlantiques), Midi-Pyrénées (specifically Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne, Lot, Tarn, Tarn et Garonne), Poitou-Charente (Charente, Charente-Maritime, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne), and Haute-Vienne, Corrèze, Cantal, Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales.
Imitators have sprung up, however, in the form of a Bayonne-style American version being made in Bayonne, New Jersey, and being called Bayonne Ham. Some producers in Québec also make what they call Bayonne Ham.
Adrennes ham, Proscuttio, York ham
Use opened sealed plastic packages, or fresh from the deli counter, within 2 days. Store in the fridge meanwhile.
Bayonne is on the edge of the Gascony region of France, so it features often in the cooking of Gascony.
Bayonne Ham got its name from being shipped out to the rest of Europe through the port of Bayonne.