While the prehistoric wild pig (or wild boar) may have precious little in common with the domestic pig we know today, ham has always been a constant and a core staple in our diets. Made from the most premium cuts of the pig, ham has been eaten and enjoyed since time immemorial.

Cato the Elder, agricultural expert among other accolades, was the first to set out a recipe for dried, smoked ham back in Roman times, and as such took on the mantel of the ‘godfather‘ of ham. And yet, closer to home in the Pyrenees, legend has it that a pig fell into salty spring water in Salies-du Bearn. The shepherds that discovered its remains some time later were astonished to find it had been preserved by the salt, and had the most exquisite taste, especially the hind legs. The discovery of the preserving qualities of salting pork led to a local tradition still in existence today.

And so dry-cured (sometimes dry cure) ham, and the delicate art of salting pork was born. As for the Gauls, they would conserve ham by rubbing meat with salt, herbs and vinegar, before drying and smoking.

Meanwhile, their enemies the Romans elevated ham into a true delicacy, only fit for the emperor’s table.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages, and ham had come to symbolise abundance.

In the 21st century, across the four corners of fair France, dry-cured ham has become the darling of French dining.


Dry-cured or cooked, authentic ham is made exclusively from the hind leg of a pig, and this part only. It’s a legal requirement!

After that, the production of dry-cured ham requires real know-how and lots of patience. The legs are rubbed all over several times with salt, just like in the olden days, and then left to mature for varying amounts of time. The distinctive signature flavour and colour of each ham will depend on individual salting technique, breed, the pig’s diet, drying method and length of ageing.

The major difference between dry-cured hams is the length of ageing. Once dried, they may also be smoked.

Just like other charcuterie products, the technical code of practice, the Code des Usages de la Charcuterie, defines good practice for the production of dry-cured ham.

Names and designations

The Code des Usages de la Charcuterie also defines a number of designations worthy of note:

French terms authentique and veritable (authentic and true), together with any geographical indication in France, can feature alongside the name of the ham as long as the ham was produced in the specified region, province, department or locality (as long as the PGI protected geographical indication does not apply, cf. below). Designations such as à l’ancienne or autrefois (meaning ‘old-style’), or any similar term, can feature alongside the product name as long as the raw materials have not been subjected to any other process than refrigeration.

De pays (from the region) on the label of jambon cru does not denote any additional characteristic.

Like other food products, dry-cured ham can qualify for official quality schemes, and PGI:

If the dry-cured ham has been awarded protected geographical status (PGI), the product must be produced in the specified area and comply with a strict set of criteria.

The montagne (or mountain) designation applies to any product whose raw materials are sourced from a mountainous area, and whose production processes too take place in this area.


Jambon de Bayonne

It was here that the ham originated that would one day become ‘Bayonne’. While it gained its reputation from trade that traces back to the 16th century, today it is an authentic, terroir-driven product, complete with Conformity Certificate (French: certification de conformité) and protected geographical status (PGI). To meet a very rigorous regulatory guidelines, Bayonne Ham must derive from pigs born, raised and prepared in South-West France. Dry-cured ham on the bone must weigh at least 7kg. According to ancient tradition, it is still rubbed in Salies salt (in keeping with the legend), imparting its inimitable character. The meat is then dried at low temperature for 7 – 12 months before undergoing lengthy curing to acquire its signature balanced, refined flavours. Traditionally the ham was rubbed with Espelette chilli pepper (French: piment d’Espelette), a tradition still maintained today by a handful of stalwart producers. Produced exclusively in the ‘Adour basin’, it is the most famous and most consumed dry-cured ham in France. In its original form, authentic Bayonne ham is easily recognised for its Basque cross stamp (French: lauburu) visible on the rind. Once sliced, it must display its uniform, signature red colour, with 8mm of fat.
Bayonne Ham has had coveted PGI status since 1998. To qualify, the ham must come from a pig raised in the South west and produced in the Adour Basin. The minimum time taken to produce the ham varies between 9 to 12 months. Some producers flavour their hams with a touch of local Espelette pepper to allow the sweetness of the meat to truly shine. All the hams are branded with the ‘Lauburu’ seal, a Bayonne cross, as a sign of their authenticity.

Jambon d’Auvergne

Jambon d’Auvergne is a thigh of pork cured in dry salt, matured and dried for a period of at least 240 days (8 months), from the date of salting to the end of curing. The meat must weigh in on the bone at a minimum 6kg after curing. The ham is prepared from a raw thigh of pork, and trimmed to a weight no less than 8.4 kg when placed in salt. This particular ham is never smoked. Auvergne ham also benefits from PGI status. It takes 8 months or longer to produce, and the finished article once cured must weigh at least 6kg. It can be sold on the bone, in portions (quarters) or sliced.

Jambon Cru de Morvan

Strict laws protect the production of Morvan dry-cure ham. The meat must be produced exclusively in the upper areas of Morvan (from Chateau-Chinon to Arleuf). The production technique is always the same: raw ham is rubbed with a mixture of coarse salt, spices and pepper, then piled up and covered entirely in coarse salt, then transferred to the salting unit, where they must remain for 3-4 weeks. The hams are then washed, the salt crust is removed and they are left to hung in the fresh air for 6-11 months. During this time, the hams are rubbed with a spicy coating that will colour to the rind.

Jambon de Lacaune

Jambon de Lacaune PGI is produced exclusively in the communes of Lacaune and Muret in the Tarn. The total length of time to produce the ham, from the meat being placed in salt to its removal from the salting unit, will depend on its raw weight: at least 9 months for raw thighs weighing 10kg, and at least 12 months for 11kg.

More information is available in French at: www.salaisons-lacaune.fr

Jambon noir de Bigorre

This particular cured ham is sourced from one-year-old plus Gascony pigs, raised free range and cured for more than 18 months.
Today, after more than thirty years’ tirelessly battling, faced with the certain extinction of the heritage Porc noir breed, the black pigs are once again seen to thrive in this region. The succulent meat has become a highly-prized delicacy.

Jambon prisuttu

This Corsican speciality ham is easily recognised for the remarkable colour and consistency of the fat (the meat is bright red, while the fat is pink). The ham is known too for its distinctive shape since the hams are cut in long lengths (15cm) from the femur bone, which enhances the flat shape of the ham. And true to gastronomic tradition, the pigs are partly fed on chestnuts and acorns.
Once prepared, the ham is salted and placed in a dark place for 30 – 45 days, depending on the weight of the raw meat. More often than not, local salt from Porto-Vecchio is used. After salting, the salt is removed and the meat is covered in ground pepper and chilli pepper, then cured for 6-18 months depending on its weight (5-9kg for finished ham on the bone).

Jambon de Vendée

With its exclusive Label rouge designation, Vendee ham is an integral part of the region’s gastronomic tradition. Only slightly dried, it can be savoured thinly sliced, or traditionally enjoyed cooked. Requiring specialist knowledge and know-how, the meat is hand rubbed with brandy* and herbs, then salted in dry salt and at the end of salting, pressed between two wooden planks. It takes at least 60 days to create this regional delicacy.

Jambon de Luxeuil

With its Label rouge designation, authentic Luxeuil ham must be produced in the specific locality of Luxeuil-les-Bains in the Bourgogne region of Eastern France. This area with its cold, dry microclimate and iron soils and subsoils imparts the ham with a distinctive flavour. The ham can be prepared either on or off the bone, by slow maceration (at least a month) in red wine or alcohol*, then rubbed with dry salt. Spices and herbs can be added to the salt. The meat is then delicately smoked using resinous wood chips, then allowed to rest flat for 4 weeks. The total time it takes to produce Luxeuil dry-cure ham must be no less than 25 days per kg of fresh, trimmed ham.

Jambon de Haut-Doubs

Weighing in at a minimum 10kg at the start of production, this ham from eastern France retains its original shape on the bone. Great care is taken to remove any excess fat and some of the rind. The salting process is done by rubbing the meat with salt before smoking in a special pyramid shaped chimney (French: tue or tuye). The entire process takes more than 9 months for this dried and smoked delicacy with its coveted label rouge designation.

Jambon sec des Ardennes

Unlike Ardennes ham from Belgium, the French version is not smoked. In addition, it comes with its own certificate of conformity and protected geographical status (PGI) which sets it apart from Belgian ham. Jambon des Ardennes also stands apart with its distinctive curing process in salt and juniper. It takes between 6-7 months to make this particular speciality.

Jambon de Savoie

With its label rouge designation, whole Savoie dry-cure ham on the bone must weigh at least 7.5kg. The hams of the region are recognisable for their characteristic flattened shape. After removing the salt, the ham is smoked for 2 – 4 months with a blend of wood oils including pine and juniper. Smoking is traditionally carried out in a large chimney or external smoking unit. Several months in the drying unit complete the ham’s maturation. Brown on the outside, the ham is dark red on the inside, crowned with an outer ring of white or pink fat. This ham is traditionally served as part of the regional hero dish raclette.

Jambon du Kintoa

The kintoa, a native pig from the French Basque region, which was facing extinction in the early 80s until saved by local farmers and has since seen something of a renaissance. Kintoa ham is dried for at least 16 months. Once removed from the drying unit, the ham displays a delicately marbled, intense red colour, with a layer of bright white fat. The marbling effect gives the ham delicate succulence and intense flavours. On the palate, the woody notes combine to perfection with the aromas of caramelised hazelnuts.

*Alcohol can be damaging to your health. Please drink responsibly.

Partout dans l’Hexagone, les jambons secs sont aussi beaux que bons: Alsace, Ardennes, Auvergne, Aquitaine, Bourgogne, Franche-Comté, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées, Pays de Loire, Poitou-Charentes, Rhône- Alpes, …

Chaque région a sa recette… Charcuteries très répandues, les jambons secs sont souvent liés à un terroir, une histoire, une richesse culturelle et un climat. Deux grandes traditions de fabrication se rencontrent au fil des régions : toujours séché le jambon peut ensuite être fumé ou non.

Jambons secs de chez nous…

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(2) L’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé. A consommer avec modération.


Nutritional information

Protein g/100g Fat g/100g Carbohydrate g/100g Salt g/100g Energy kcal/100g
Premium cooked ham 20,8 4,71 0.87 1,77 129
Dry-cured ham, rind and fat removed 26,3 9,5 0,3 5,4 192
Standard cooked ham 12 7 2.2 2 120

Source : Ciqual 2016