A few weeks ago, we came across the Bayonne Ham Festival during another one of our many DYI store trips to the French Basque capital. It became evident that something big was happening in town when we saw cars parked all over the roundabouts, miles before we got anywhere near the centre. When we finally reached the banks of the river Nive, we understood why.
Dating back to 1462 (yes, that’s right!), Bayonne Ham Fair takes places every year during the Easter weekend.
Over 30 local producers compete in showcasing their produce. Three different elements — pigs bred for meaty, muscly back legs, a rich diet of grains and nuts and a dry constant breeze that blows down from the mountains — ensure the delicious and complex taste of the Bayonne ham.
The Bayonne ham is made of pigs from Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées, or Poitou Charentes only. They live a semi-free life on a GMO-free diet and they are not slaughtered before they are at least one year old. The jambon is then cured for a minimum of 12 months, some of them up to 21 months.
If you’re ever going to eat ham this is the place to do it. We’ve recently made the decision to cut down our meat consumption and when we do eat meat, we make sure it comes from responsible sources. Some of the participants at the Bayonne Ham Fair ham competition only breed one pig and produce two hams: one for the family consumption and one for the competition.
But it’s not just the ham that makes the event worth a visit. The whole town is alive, the markets are full, street food smells fill your nostrils and, in true French style, everyone is holding a glass of wine, a ham sandwich or an oyster.
After perusing the stalls and tasting of sorts of delicacies, we ended up buying our lovely ham from our very own butcher in Sauveterre de Bearn, Ihidoy. Come stay with us at La Maison de la riviere and you won’t be more than five minutes drive away from this impossible delicacy! 🙂