You adore prosciutto di Parma. You’ve tasted jamón Iberico.  But have you heard of French jambon de Bayonne? It makes up the third star in the trinity of exquisite single-origin dry-cured hams from Europe.

Christine Chesanek, owner of Fromage Fine Foods in Old Saybrook, Connecticut brought some into her shop for me.  (She sliced the ham for the plate of jambon de Bayonne pictured here into translucent pieces.) It is made by Delpeyrat, which has been fabricating the ham since 1890.

A slice of Jambon de Bayonne

Jambon de Bayonne comes from the Adour River Valley in southwestern France near the port town of its name.  It’s reputation stretches back centuries. (The father of the giant Gargantua in Francois Rabelais’ 1534 satiric novel kept a good store of jambon de Bayonne on hand.) The artisanal fabrication methods require pork from hogs raised in the region, salt from Salies de Béarn and a long cool salting period. Because the ham is coated with a paste made from lard and flour, it dries slowly and gently.  This unique production step brings out unique flavors without desiccating the pork.

Although I first tasted this ham decades ago, it’s only since 2015 that the import of jambon de Bayonne into the U.S. has been permitted.  The association of producers of this ham is trying to raise awareness of its artisanal products hence my interest.

Plate of jambone de Bayonne Green Almonds

Jambon de bayonne is slightly drier than prosciutto di Parma and gently salty. It has a rich, earthy taste that lingers on the palate.  I detect smoky and peppery notes too. I plated it with shaved slices of fresh green almonds.  Crisp and mildly acidic, the green almonds complement the ham without overpowering it. Serve it with aperitifs such a glass of dry rose or sparkling cider.  For the adventuresome, here are some more authentic spirits to serve with the ham.