At the time I visited the Bordeaux St Jean railway station I had this fantasy of getting a train to Bayonne in the very south of south west France the following day. This was so that I could check out the famous cured hams there. It would be a two hour journey each way by train. The pain from my blisters put paid to that notion. So I stayed in Bordeaux and resigned myself to visiting Bayonne some other time.
Then, the very next day, as I was hobbling around the city, in a part that was very attractive but which I had rarely explored in detail, despite four previous visits to Bordeaux, I found myself struck almost dumb on the rue des trois conils.
Like the story of the young girl at Lourdes an overwhelming vision appeared before my eyes that was almost religious. If there is a saint of hams (must look that one up) he or she manifested themselves in a vision of sixty iberico hams hanging in a gleaming shop window. Well actually they don't call themselves a 'shop'. They exist in higher realms than that. The Viandas De Salamanca – Jambon Pata Negra et Charcuteres is known as a boutique.
During my 'tongue hanging out' observations I discovered that they do jamón bellota, recebo, cebo, salchichon, chorizo, lomito and lomo iberques. All these products are from the black nailed pigs (pata negra) from south west Spain. Most other pigs have whiter coloured nails on their hoofs. As it happens the boutique also does cheese and wines from the same region to match the cured meats. The French call them les spécialities de charcuteries iberiques.
The finest they offer is the jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). The ham is from free range pigs that roam extensively through oak forest. These are called dehesas and are situated along the border between Spain and Portugal. The hams are labelled according to the pigs' diets and their exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavour of the meat. For the last three months of their lives the pigs gorge heartily on the acorn diet. They love it and this rich nutty diet adds around 20% more fat on them. The subsequent meat is oily and fatty and when the hind leg is hung to dry a little cup is attached below the leg to catch the dripping oil. The ham is cured for up to 36 months and claims a very high price but is very sought after and beloved.
The next grade is called jamón ibérico de recebo. It is from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain. Jamón ibérico de cebo is from pigs that are fed only on grain and their ham is cured for 24 months. All of the hams are prized for their smooth texture and rich savoury taste plus the moistness given by the intramuscular fat. It is a delicious but very expensive product. These types of ham represent about 10% of hams sold in Spain.
According to their promotional leaflet the Spanish company also have boutiques in Toulouse and Bayonne so maybe whilst I didn't get to see French Bayonne hams in their city I did get wowed by the products on show here.
Voila! The patron saint of charcutiers is Saint Antoine. He was born around 250AD and lived much of his life as a hermit in the Egyptian desert practising an extremely monastic and disciplined lifestyle. Across France many charcuterie establishments name themselves after him.
|Saint Antoine with a piggy friend.|