York Ham, North Yorkshire
Along with cheddar cheese York ham is perhaps the most copied British foodstuff worldwide, not always (or often) with great gustatory success. What is generally sold as jamon de York in Spain for example is almost certain to be the cheaper plastic-packed stuff without character or flavour worth mentioning.
Legend has it that the original hams were smoked with sawdust generated during the building of the cathedral , though that sounds far too good to be true. It is also arguable if York ham should even be smoked, and what most people think of as York ham is simply cured in salt with sugar and saltpetre, and then matured for at least six months ideally, and some for up to two years. The true York ham has a wonderful matt pink colour, retaining a slightly coarse texture to what is definitely meaty meat. It is sad that the hugely inferior (it is painful mentioning them in the same article) hams made from reformed pork can, because York ham does not have protected designation of origin status, claim the name for themselves.
Yorkshire and in particular it seems York developed the product because of the local availability of Large White pigs, which produced hams of maybe 50lb or more in the heyday of the product, and the brewing industry in the region whose waste products generated large quantities of cheap feed.
A really well made York ham is something to be enjoyed on its own, cut in thick slices off the bone, not to be lost in a sandwich or worse cooked in some way. A gourmand whose name escapes me (Lord Castlerosse?) regularly lunched on a whole York ham and half a dozen bottles of claret. Not exactly a balanced meal, but in itself maybe a perfect meal if shared with a group of friends.
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