Jambon Bayonne: cured ham worthy of an annual ham fair in it’s name since 1462. That’s a whoppin’ 555 years! The Pays Basque knows how great their ham is and wants everyone to try their sweet, melt-in-your-mouth, porky goodness yearly — how generous of them! ????
Every year over the Easter weekend for 4 days, pork lovers flock to the centre of Bayonne to indulge in local Bayonne ham amongst many festivities.
The first day of the ham fair is inaugurated with a competition among local ham producers judged by members of the Bayonne Ham Brotherhood (that does have a funny ring to it, doesn’t it? ????) to pick the best free range, farm-produced ham in the region.
There are also omelette cook-out competitions incorporating the local Bayonne ham, fine food producers displaying a variety of cheeses, gateaux basque, honey, and foie gras, Easter flea markets, a mini animal farm next to the Bayonne ham producer tents, live music, art displays of pigs, and of course, a plethora of bars and restaurants ready to serve drinks and delicious pork-themed menus!
So let’s get down to the porky deets! ????
Back in the early days, Bayonne ham was shipped throughout Europe from the Port of Bayonne, hence its name, Jambon Bayonne.
Bayonne ham is made using a breed of Basque pigs called Pie Noir, black spotted pigs. These pigs are raised outdoors to forage for acorns, chestnuts, beechnuts, and various roots. They are then slaughtered from the ages of 12 to 15 months, weighing an average of 265 to 350 pounds. This reknowned ham can only be made in Aquitaine, the Midi-Pyrénées, Poitou-Charente, Haute-Vienne, Corrèze, Cantal, Aude, and Pyrénées-Orientales.
It is said that the Bayonne ham owes much of its reputation to the quality of the salt that preserves it; the natural salt of the Pays de l’Adour is responsible for its extraordinary taste! The flavour of the Bayonne ham depends on factors such as the local climate the pigs were raised in, the effects of the southern wind, and final touches such as rubbing the ham with Espelette spice powder, giving the ham a warm, earthy, clay colour as well as extra flavour.
Basque pigs, Pay de l’Adour salt, spices, and time are the magical components needed to create the oh-so-delicious, Jambon Bayonne.
Find your way to the ham producer tents to get a hold of all sorts of wonderful charcuterie: Jambon Bayonne, saucisson, boudin noir, andouillette, chorizo, saucisse seche, paper cones filled with ham, artisanal Easter chocolate eggs in piggy form – simply put, it’s a pig fest!
Those that are looking for the cream of the crop of Bayonne ham can spot the stands with large signs touting either gold, silver or bronze medalist winners from the 2015 Concours Général Agricole, a French competition for local agricultural producers. Maison Montauzer – who produces the Ibaïama ham – is also well-known for its exceptional taste.
This year’s Foire au Jambon has just wrapped up, but you can always plan for next year’s ham fest, come next Easter weekend! Bookmark those dates and make the trip, it’ll be hamazing! ????
Les Tontons Flingueurs – Bistrot Bayonnais
In conjunction with the Foire au Jambon in Bayonne, many local restos come up with special menus to welcome the throngs of crowds. Undecided where to eat for lunch, my eye was caught by the plates of lunch goers at Les Tontons Flingueuers.
Boy, did my pinchables thank me for doing so! Packed to the brim inside the restaurant, full table benches outside with servers zipping in and out like busy bees, I grabbed myself a seat at a table bench just next to the Nive River by Pont Marengo.
I knew in a heartbeat that I had to order the hot dog boudin (blood sausage) as my starter and went with the Axoa de veau as my main. Does the sound of blood sausage make you squirm on your insides? Then, you, my friend, have yet to taste this wondrously, delicious sausage that will make you succumb to your senses! The French have been making the boudin noir for over 2000 years and I can humbly assure you, it tastes D.I.V.I.N.E.
My hot dog was a sizeable portion, it really could have been a main for most people. Served in a toasted bun, the boudin noir was accompanied with julienne cut apple, fried onion bits, and a homemade ketchup that was laced with grainy mustard.
First bite in — WOW. This sausage is nothing short of creamy, fatty, and orgasmic! The homemade ketchup takes the hot dog to the next level. I wished there was moooore! The julienne cut apple balances out the fattiness so nicely (can you see how much fat is in there?!) and the extra crunch from the fried onion bits tied it all up perfectly????????
Each progression of the hot dog was photographed as it just kept looking better and better. Onlookers were clearly perplexed, mildly scoffed by this little Asian living up to the stereotype — did I care? Shamelessly no! The camera has to eat FIRST, les gars!
Next up, my main: Axoa de veau. In Basque, the term axoa means chopped. Axoa de veau, a signature Basque dish, is normally comprised of tender veal chunks, mild red chili peppers, red peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, Espelette spices, and white wine.
My Axoa de veau was served on a bed of hot rice. The veal was drenched in a sauce that was bursting with flavour, it was savoured to the very last bite! The Axoa was ever so slightly spicy, a bonus for this spicy addict ????
Upon collecting my polished plate, I could tell the server was pretty impressed with my eating abilities ???? As they say, ain’t no thing but a chicken wing!
I hereby give my full stamp of approval to Les Tontons Flingueurs. This place is legit. You must go to there.
Till our next meal together,
Location : 7 Quai Amiral Dubourdieu 64100 Bayonne
Website : http://www.les-tontons-flingueurs.fr
Instagram : http://instagram.com/lestontonsflingueursbayonne
Opening hours :
- Monday to Friday 10:30am – 2:30pm // 7pm – 10pm
- Saturday & Sunday 10:30am – 10pm
Tips : Check the Bayonne tourism website for the yearly Foire au Jambon program.