A week in review in the Butchery at Baradieu

Pigs & Newbies

It doesn’t take much to make a pig smile.  And what does it take to make four young cooks, butchers, and foodistas smile?  Our Spring 4 week Butchery & Charcuterie program begins here with the pigs. Here are six more happy things from the first week in Gascony.


 1. White rubber boots and a hooded Butcher’s coat.


2. Team Work by the Grrls Meat Camp Scholarship students Larissa & Ali.


3. Watching Dominique sheet out the ribs on an XL Baradieu pig.


4. Larissa jumping into the Boudin Noir production.


5. The steamy kitchen.


6. The tools of the trade for making headcheese, paté, fricandaux, boudin noir, and other French Farmstead Charcuterie at Baradieu.

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HAM FAIR- la Foire au Jambon in Bayonne

au Fête a Bayonne

It starts with a parade. Drums, whistles and stomping feet. The Easter Weekend in Bayonne has feted the Foire au Jambon- or Ham Fair for 552 years. Since the 1400’s farmers have brought their wares to the riverside quays of this Port city to share the wealth of the forests and pastures of the Atlantic Pyrenees farms. This was a big deal in the day. And it is a bigger deal now.

French Fast Food

From the important competition for the best Farm Produced Ham (see winner below) to the walking and browsing, eating and drinking- the Holiday weekend draws people to the Basque lands from all over France. Good friend Cathy Barrow arrived to report on the fair for National Public Radio ( http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/04/18/304537880/like-ham-theres-a-festival-for-that-in-france), and we headed south through the mountain pig farms of Les Aldudes, past the smoked Truita de Banka, and on to the Coast for a few days of Gascon R&D- Research & Devour. Little did she know she would become a media star in her own right!

Mrs. Wheelbarrow on FR3 TV

From the beautiful displays of French Farmstead Charcuterie like the one from Arruabarrena below …

the Ark of Charcuterieto the Basque Porc  or Kinto brand hams raised in Les Aldudes by Pierre Oteiza and company, Local artisan producers- over 30 producers filled a salt-scented tent selling and sharing their wares. 


Reporting from Basquelandia… Au Marché. St. Jean de Luz France



At Les Halles- the brick and iron work market in St. Jean de Luz, the French coast, the Basque Countries.  Here, the light is aching clear as the sound of fishing boats rocking in their harbor cradles, small waves sanding the beach, and the clatter of knives and forks from a slew of small restaurants act as soundtrack.IMG_2294

Sweet almond pastry and black cherries Bateaux Gasque float in pastry creme. I am still looking for ‘the best’.IMG_2374

Easter Spring lamb from gigot to kidneys vie with line caught St. Pierre for the Sunday menu.IMG_2373


A petit blanc and a  jambon beurre sandwich breaks the fast at la Buvette de la Halle. Spring Color pops. IMG_2372This 5 minute walking tour of the market at St. Jean de Luz in Basquelandia is brought to you by Salt Circle Roadtrips. More information for September’s dates here: CLICK


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25 Springs… making myself at home.

IMG_1700I was born under a wandering star… at least that was what the astrologer told my Mom when I was 13. Quadruple Sagittarius with all sorts of trouble rising. What she didn’t say was that as much as I loved traveling, I would dig and dig and dig until I made a strong foundation before I built my home.  So after digging deep around these parts-what I often called my Long Village-for 25 years, I finally have made a home. 


I Heart Australia: Finding France Down Under


I found myself saying this over and over during the last two weeks-I heart Australia. And this is why.

Over the last two weeks,  Christiane and Dominique Chapolard and I traveled the Victorian Countryside visiting farms, towns and markets. We came to meet some former students, make some new friends, and learn a little about life with pigs down under.  The French Pig Workshops, farm chats and special lunches and dinners were shared with over 50 people-farmers, butchers, charcutiers and chefs. That would have been reward enough with new found energy for the sort of Seed-to-Sausage gospel we preach. But best of all was traveling the two lane roads lined with ghostly reaching eucalyptus trees from farm to homestead to charming gold rush villages and meeting people on their home turf-that vast sky over an end of summer golden, gum-forested landscape called Australia.


Jonai Farms- Eganston VictoriaIMG_0771

Meet Mr. & Mrs Jonas of Jonai Farms. Jonai Farms spills down a slope of open fields edged in eucalyptus trees with a view of the paddocks and pastured farmland from the Moonrise Porch. Tammi and Stuart Jonas and their three bright and welcoming kids shared their home, their table and along with their their Large Black pigs hosted our first ever French Pig workshop in Australia. They generously offered their farm and life over a long weekend that stretched to just one more ample biscuits-and-gravy breakfast before we left. 

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Looking at France …from afar and from within.


This timeless scene- the Basque charcutier Pierre Oteiza and a table of French fans.

I had thought I would write a post about my  trip to the Salon d’Agriculture in Paris last week. You could call it the largest Producer’s market in France. Then I read David’s great photographic account on his blog here; I bow to his alacrity and fabulous pictures!  But before you take a stroll through the Pavillion #7 with David, Susan and I (and we only made it through one part of the amazing farm show!) think about this. This is what I see from within France. 

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Australian Pigs with A French Accent… French Pig Workshops in OZ

Come watch a French Pig Fly… to Australia!

We are super excited to announce that we are packing The French Pig Butchery & Charcuterie Workshop bags for a round-the-world jaunt to Australia, Melbourne and Brisbane areas, for workshops, dinners and special events from Gascony in Southwest France into the kitchens, farms, and butcher shops of Australia- March 14th to 19th, 2014. 


How to make a ham… French style or meet the Jambon de Bayonne IGP

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10 kilogram fresh pork leg & pure salt from Salies de Bearn

They say it takes a village… to do a lot things- raise a child, train a dog, create a civilization. In my corner of SW France, it takes this village to make a ham. Not just any ham, but the IGP  (geographically protected) Jambon de Bayonne*.  I happened to be passing by with a ham-driven student, so we stopped to make a ham with the rest of the village for their annual Fête du Cochon. I saw the link for the village celebration on the Pyragena site while looking for scientific information on curing charcuterie. (That’s what I do when I am not rebuilding barns and refitting barges.)  When I spotted a notice at the bottom of the page that the villagers (and any passers by) were invited to come and salt cure your own ham at the amazing new ham house, I was in!   


Beside the Englishman and me, there were only a few bereted men and one French housewife waiting in white overcoats, hair nets and blue booties. These ‘early birds of Arzacq’  wanted to be the first to make the first batch of public ham that day. We were escorted into the inner sanctum of stainless steel and gleaming white walls by the technical team responsible for transforming 1000 hams a week and to discover the marriage of a farmhouse tradition to a modern technical plant.  Although the boar’s share of the production is a high-quality entry level created under the Consortium de Jambon de Bayonne’s guidelines, the facilities also salts and cures, dries, ages and refines artisan produced hams as well as personal hams. And this is where we fit in.


I had visited the facility before with students discovering some of the finer points of making a French ham in a modern plant that was designed to mimic the traditional flow of charcuterie making: from winter slaughter and salting to spring drying under windy dry skies, to warm summer aging and maturing. Although I extol and celebrate the small producer and artisan farmstead charcuterie, it is important to keep your eye on the larger scale as well. As Dominique Chapolard always says, “Tout seul, tu meurs“- in other words you can’t live and work alone. In the agricultural world of rural Southwest France, working in community- sharing equipment, running slaughterhouses and direct sales and marketing is critical element in financial and lifestyle choices. At the Consortium de Jambon de Bayonne, they have managed to keep a pulse on a growing global market (Jambon de Bayonne in the USA soon!) while preserving local traditions and supporting a broad local farming community.  This means a large community of small pig farmers, approx 1500 farms, can supply 50+ charcutiers to create recognized global brand.


So what about our own personal hams? After massaging and then salting my 10-kilo ham, it was placed alongside the dozen other early bird hams on salted racks. By the end of the day several dozen village hams would be wheeled into the refrigerated rooms for a a dozen days to cure. After that, they will cycle through the man-made seasons drying in a foehn inspired wind, then aging quietly in the dark until they are deemed ready to eat. In 10 months or so, I’ll take a little 2-hour road trip to pick up my ham and bring it home to hang alongside my XL Chapolard hams at Camont secure in knowing that the village of Arzacq has lived up to it’s promise to share their Jambon de Bayonne with the world.

Making hams requires patience, So while my ham is curing under a careful eye a few hundred kilometers south of here, I’ll continue to share these ham centric tidbits with you. Want to discover Ham heaven for yourself? check out my next Spring Basquelandia Road Trip here.

Here are a few more process pictures of that leg of fresh pork becoming a fine Jambon de Bayonne.


After salting for a day a kilo, the hams are moved into a drying chamber for 2 months.


Next they are ‘woken up’ from their cold deep sleep and moved to a warmer drier environment to continue drying.


Once they reach at proper weight loss they are covered with a protective layer of fat and left to mature and develop the characteristic rich flavors of hamness. IMG_9515

The sweet salty thin slices of Jambon de Bayonne marry perfectly with the orange scented madeleine. A Gascon breakfast en route.

*Jambon de Bayonne is a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) European product. This means traditional salt-cured and air-dried hams cured within the designated area from pigs grown in that area and fed on cereal and other food grown in that same area- Southwest French Hams.  This isn’t a plug for the brand or type of ham, it’s an abashedly effusive love letter to the good people at the Maison de Jambon and Pyregena research station that opens it doors one weekend a year so that the villagers ( and few daring strangers- see photographs) can see for themselves what makes a Jambon de Bayonne. This is transparency at its most neighborly form. How many charcutiers and butchers share all their backstory with the public?







Let’s talk about charcuterie and how to learn to make it


I am looking at four students at the end of four weeks and one happy French farmer/butcher/teacher. These are the faces of accomplishment and I am proud that we help get them there. Can you picture yourself here? Working with year-old XL pigs (400 lb.), only salt and black pepper as seasoning, and the simple low-tech solutions to curing.

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In 2014, we have just two four-week programs scheduled: one in May, one in November. If you are thinking of creating a charcuterie business, incorporating direct sales, farmer’s markets, and added value products from your farm, or want to authenticate and improve your charcuterie skills with some classic French savor-faire, then think about joining us. This year we will be working in the new BarnKitchen at Camont- a 600 sq ft workshop teaching space including a built in charcuterie curing cabinet, outside smoker, canning station, and 8 burn professional range. There is limited space available; just 6 students at a time. Only 12 students per year.

eric showing lepoa

This year we will adding a week of advanced studies in the Basque Country in making salt-cured, air-dryer ham and working with heritage breed pork- Kintoa and Black Gascon pigs.  This study is on site on a farm in the Pyrenees and in the abattoir and workshops of the Jambon de Bayonne producers.

aldudes pig walk

There are also a couple of one week introduction programs- a sort of “how to” basic that covers pork, duck and other farm poultry as well if you just want a taste of and overview of how we turn animals to meat to preserved food. For more information and how to sign up for our Butchery & Charcuterie programs just click here: http://kitchen-at-camont.com/programs/charcuterie/


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