In Britain, when we think of Easter, we think of chocolate eggs. However, the people of Bayonne, in south west France, associate it above all else with ham. Today marks the start of their four-day celebration of Bayonne ham, la foire au jambon.
The town has been celebrating the local speciality for some 550 years now. This weekend, 50 local producers will be offering tips and tastings for visitors to the festival.
There will also be music and dancing, as well as various culinary and sporting competitions.
Bayonne ham is considered a quintessential part of the local, Basque gastronomy.
It is produced by flavouring the skin of the ham with sea salt from the local Adour estuary or Béarn. The ham is then left to hang at a temperature of 6-8°C, so that the salt can draw out the moisture while the meat absorbs the salt.
Hams must be at least seven months old before being put on sale – and, they say, can be kept for years. Given the popularity of Bayonne’s foire au jambon this weekend, I don’t think there will be much need for that.