Photographer's Note

I was attracted to this shop in Bayonne by the vivid paintwork. I also liked the warmly lit interior. In common with a number of other food shops in the city, it sells the local speciality, Jambon de Bayonne.

Some words from Wikipedia about this product:

Bayonne Ham or Jambon de Bayonne is a cured ham that takes its name from the ancient port city of Bayonne in the far South West of France, a city located in both the cultural regions of Basque Country and Gascony.

The area concerned is the basin of the river Adour and this geographical limitation is now enshrined in the regulations for the production of Bayonne Ham. The meat itself does not have to come from the Adour basin but has to be produced from one of eight clearly defined breeds of pig reared in an area from Deux Sèvres in the north to Aveyron and the Aude. The regulations are very strict and cover the zone of origin of the pork, the regime for feeding the animals (no steroids, no fish oils, no antibiotics). Each animal must be clearly and uniquely identifiable with a tattoo. Transport, slaughter, size and weight of the original meat cut, minimum fat cover, lanolic acid content, and the post slaughter storage temperature for the meat are all specified. The ham produced within these criteria is given the European Union PGI status Protected Designation of Origin (allows nitrite content) and as such is called Bayonne Ham.

The drying method used in modern times mimics that used in the past. Each drying storage chamber has temperature and humidity controls set to match seasonal variations. Originally the pigs were slaughtered in late October - early November. The hams were then rubbed in salt produced in the salt pans of the Adour estuary or from those near Béarn. The temperature conditions at this time of year, 6 to 8 °C (43 to 46 °F), are ideal for the initial preserving process and the hams were left hanging in the drying room until the end of January or early February.

In the next part of the process, a mixture of pork fat and flour called 'pannage' is used to seal the cut end of the joint. This reduces the speed in which the meat dries out during the warmer months of March, April, and May. At some point during this time many of the producers will also rub a paste of Piment d'Espelette into the skin, giving a unique tang to the end product. The final drying stage is completed by the end of July and the ham is ready.

Modern techniques using individual drying chambers with temperature and humidity controls that reproduce the seasonal temperatures and the changing humidity conditions produced each year by the 'foehn' (southerly wind) and the Atlantic ocean. The size of ham used is normally within the range of 8 to 9 kg (18 to 20 lb) including bone.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9196 W: 63 N: 25869] (114585)
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