In the vast world of charcuterie, it can be easy to get caught up in the basics: saucisson sec, prosciutto, chorizo, pâté. But French charcuterie lovers will be familiar with another star of the cured meat canon: Bayonne ham, or jambon de Bayonne. This cured ham, similar in some ways to Parma ham, prosciutto, and Jamón Serrano, is delicate and savory, with its own unique character and terroir.
What is Bayonne Ham?
Though a staple in the Basque region for generations, Bayonne ham has only been available in the U.S. since 2015. It has the distinction of a Protected Geographical Indication, meaning that only ham made in this particular style in Bayonne, France can be called Bayonne ham. (Prior to 2015, D’Artagnan sold a product called Bayonne ham made in the U.S. in the style of the original, using their Bayonne, NJ location as a naming loophole.)
But if you find yourself in possession of some real Bayonne ham, we’ve got some recipes you can try out, courtesy of Chef Aurélien Dufour, charcutier and owner of Dufour Gourmet. Dufour grew up between Bordeaux and Germany, where his family would keep an entire massive Bayonne ham in the kitchen to slice from all year long. The recipes he developed are inspired by traditional regional dishes, but he makes the point that this ham is best enjoyed with little meddling, paired with a glass of rosé or Chablis. You can enjoy Bayonne ham on its own or served alongside fruit (particularly melon) or olives. Some of Dufour’s favorite cheese pairings with Bayonne ham include Harbison, a spoonable bloomy cheese, and Moses Sleeper, similar to a classic French brie, both from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.
Bayonne ham shouldn’t be cooked or rendered on the stovetop, as it will destroy the delicate texture of the ham. The exception is if, in the case of Dufour’s Puff Pastry and Savory Cake recipes, there are enough sauces and other moist ingredients to retain the moisture of the ham in a baked dish.
And while it might be a natural comparison to call Bayonne ham a version of French prosciutto, Dufour disagrees: “I wouldn’t compare Bayonne ham to prosciutto, as I wouldn’t compare Serrano to Iberico. Each ham has its own personality.”
Bayonne Ham Recipes
Bayonne Ham Tartines
16 oz. cherry tomatoes
100 gr Bayonne Ham (1 package)
⅓ cup olives
¼ cup fresh Feta Cheese
Dice the cherry tomatoes. Chop the olives, shallot, and chives. In a bowl, mix the feta with tomatoes, olives, shallot, and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil and mix.
Slice your baguette, and spoon your olive mixture over the slices. Top with Bayonne ham.
Bayonne Ham Puff Pastry
2 sheets puff pastry dough
⅓ cup unsalted butter
½ cup flour
3 cups milk
200 gr Bayonne Ham (2 packages)
1 ½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese
Make a Béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, then adding the flour and whisking together to create a thick paste. On low heat, slowly add the milk and mix until thickened. Season with salt and pepper.
Roll a sheet of pastry dough out onto a sheet pan, and top with 3 slices of Bayonne ham, then cover with Béchamel sauce and Gruyère. Layer the ingredients like this 3 more times.
Beat the egg and brush the edges of the puff pastry. Layer the second sheet of puff pastry on top, and seal the sides together. Brush the remaining egg over the top of the dough, and score the puff pastry.
Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes until golden. Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then serve.
French Style Savory Cake
1 cup flour
⅓ cup yeast
½ cup olive oil
½ cup milk
200 gr diced Bayonne ham (2 packages)
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
⅔ cups Kalamata olives, diced
Mix the flour, yeast, and salt. Pour eggs in the middle of the mixture along with olive oil and milk, and mix to combine. Add shredded cheese, diced Bayonne ham, and olives.
Pour the mixture into a mold and bake for 350°F for 20-45 minutes, depending on the size of your mold, until golden.
What is jambon de Bayonne?
Jambon de Bayonne is a French cured ham from the Basque region of France.
Is Bayonne ham like prosciutto?
Bayonne ham is fruitier and less salty than prosciutto.
What can you substitute for Bayonne ham?
Other cured hams like prosciutto, Serrano, or Iberico can be used in place of Bayonne ham.
Catherine Rickman is a writer, professional francophile, and host of the Expat Horror Stories podcast. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.