Bayonne Ham Palmiers; Primer on dry-cured hams

Many gourmands from the US are avid fans (one could almost say ‘rabid’ fans of bacon)

Bacon is nice, I’ll agree, and it certainly has it’s uses.  I’m confident that with the exponential growth of all things food related in the US there are many wonderful artisanal bacons available.

But for sheer versatility, both in flavors and usefulness, I don’t think it can compare to dry-cured ham.

Excuse me while I duck the virulent curses and rotten tomatoes being thrown at me.

Actually, let me duck the whole issue of bacon and go right to the ham.

Ham is meat from the hind leg of a hog.

There are three classifications of ham in the US:

Fresh ham, which is basically a pork roast, not salted, cured or smoked.

City ham, which is soaked in or injected with a brine, cooked, then smoked.  This is known as Paris ham (Jambon de Paris) in France   In France, however, one rarely sees the entire ham served as a roast; it’s normally thinly sliced for sandwiches.

Country ham, known also as dry-cured ham.  The leg is rubbed with salt and hung to dry. They may or may not be also smoked. They may or may not have additional herbs and spices rubbed in. The process can take up to 2 years.
In the US they are usually cooked before eating.
In Europe they are sliced thinly and eaten as is, occasionally the thicker slices are cooked. I’m not aware of a dry-cured ham ever being cooked as a roast.  I think the food police would be at your door in seconds.

Probably the most widely known dry-cured ham in the US is Prosciutto.

I often call for Prosciutto in my recipes; not a lot, just a bit to add flavor.  It’s the case of a little going a long way.

But, I never use actual Prosciutto.

I use Bayonne or Vendéen or Serrano, or any number of other dry-cured hams that are available here.

In my mind it denotes the type of ham and it’s up to the cook to decide which they prefer or what’s available in their market.

Other well-known dry cured hams are:

Jambon de Bayonne: French dry-cured ham rubbed with Piment d’ Espelette.

Jambon de Vendée: French dry-cured ham bathed in eau de vie and coated in a blend of spices including cinnamon, pepper, thyme.

Jamón serrano: Spanish dry-cured ham – specifically, air-dried in the mountains, not smoked.

Jamón Jabugo de Bellota: Spanish dry-cured ham, made from special, acorn-fed black-hoofed pigs, considered by many to be the best dry-cured ham in the world. It’s even a healthy ham…. It has a high fat content making it silky on the tongue and very richly flavored.  The good news is, because of the pigs’ diet, the most of the ‘white’, as the fat is called in Spain, is monounsaturated.  Jamón Jabugo de Bellota is one of the best things I have ever eaten…. sliced thin, right off the leg…. Sigh….

This is a Jamón in the special stands used for supporting it while slicing.

Most places keep a towel over the leg when not being sliced…. No, it is not covered or enclosed any more than that – even in simmer with all the doors and windows open.

Bayonne Ham Palmiers    

Preparation and cooking time:  5 minutes                                                 


  • puff pastry sheet, roughly 5″ X 8″ (12 X 20cm)
  • 2 slices thin dry-cured ham

Ham Palmiers


  • Lay ham on pastry and roll into a cylinder
  • Wrap in cling film and refrigerate until used.  It’s easiest to slice if chilled for an hour and can be made 2 days ahead.
  • Remove from fridge and slice 1/4″ thick (.6cm).
  • Lay on nonstick baking sheet and bake, 400F (200C) for 8 – 12 minutes, until pastry is golden.
  • Remove and serve immediately or allow to cool and store in airtight container. 

A good dry-cured ham can be expensive.  (A top of the line Jamón Jabugo de Bellota can be over $1,000.00 for the leg (12 – 15lbs) – not that one would ever do anything with it but slice and nibble).  Fortunately, with the intense flavor one only needs a little.

A few other ideas:

Asparagus with Ham and Chevre


Farmhouse Pasta


Potatoes with Prosciutti, Green Garlic and Olives


11 thoughts on “Bayonne Ham Palmiers; Primer on dry-cured hams”

  1. Katie, thanks so much for describing so perfectly all the hams available in France. You can imagine how overwhelmed we become when we step into a charcuterie and have to decide what we want. Such good information. Now I can’t wait to get back to France and see what I can find!!!

  2. Well I don’t eat ham but those dishes are just so “cha cha!” I had to tell you how much I loved looking at them.

  3. When we crossed the Atlantic from the Canaries back to St. Martin, we considered buy one of those hanging hams … decided it might swing so much it would kill one of us so we didn’t get one. It’s always made for a fun story but I’m sure the eating would have been better.
    Would love to try the Bayonne Ham Palmiers.

  4. Here, most people usually use prosciutto, but occasionally I will see another kind. In Virginia, they have wonderful dry-cured (salted and smoked) hams they use for “ham biscuits,” with or without gravy. They are exactly what they sound like and are one of the great pleasures of going Down South in this country.

  5. This was a very informative post. I was not really aware of all the kinds out there, so I have learned something.
    Also, it is great to find a savory recipe for palmiers-I know the standard of the sugary filling. Your presentation is enough to entice anyone-yum! Thanks for the other savory links as well. Enjoy the day!

  6. Susan, I counted over 40 different dry-cured hams in my supermarket butcher case – a bit overwhelming.
    Tv Food – thanks ‘-)) I’ll eat your share…
    Tanna, I have always wanted to buy one, too. Pretty hard to justify, though – it’s a lot! Could have knocked you off the boat….
    Zoomie, I’ve never tasted Virginia ham – and now that I’m familiar with the others I really want too.
    Val, Prosciutto is normally cut too thin here and more expensive than the local – and we love the local.
    Tina, I’ve only ever made savory palmiers…. Funny! Enjoy your day as well!

  7. Your ham curing skills are absolutely amazing! And your palmiers must be delicious! This is an amazing article!
    I would like to invite you to share this post on a a new photo based recipe sharing network that launched only this Monday. The idea is simple: recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. No rejections, no reviews. And, of course, the images link back to the author’s site.
    It’s called RecipeNewZ (with Z) – .
    I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board 🙂

  8. I love this post, primarily because I fell in LOVE with jamon serrano when I was studying in Spain. My host family had a leg of it sitting out on the counter. Honestly, it did freak me out at bit at first (mostly the hoof), but I came to love it! I totally agree with you that it is better than bacon.

  9. Penny, the locals are ‘cautiously optimistic’ but are not expecting much to change…
    RecipeNewZ – I’ll check it out ;-))
    Stephie, it does take a bit of getting used to, but only a bit. I really want to buy a whole leg some day…..

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