The best ham for a French ham sandwich
When it comes to French cuisine, one of the most popular and iconic sandwiches is the Jambon-Beurre, or French Ham Sandwich. This simple yet delicious sandwich has gained popularity not only in France, but around the world. If you want to make an authentic French ham sandwich, it’s important to choose the right type of ham. In this article, we will explore the best ham options for creating the perfect jambon beurre.
Understanding the French Ham Sandwich
Consisting of ham, butter, and bread, the jambon-beurre may seem deceptively simple. However, its popularity in France can be attributed to the high-quality ingredients used in its preparation. To replicate the authentic flavor of this classic sandwich, it is recommended to use French ham, also known as Paris ham or Jambon de Paris. This type of ham is wet-cured, unsmoked, and fully cooked for a moist and subtly flavored experience.
Characteristics of French Ham
French Ham, also known as Paris Ham or Jambon de Paris, is a wet-cured ham made from the fresh hind leg of a pig. Unlike some other types of ham, French ham is not frozen prior to the curing process to maintain its quality. The ham is prepared by removing the bone from the leg, leaving the skin and fat intact. This fat cap contributes to the ham’s succulent texture and rich flavor.
The curing process of French ham involves soaking it in a water and salt solution for 10-30 days. The brine used in the curing process typically contains salt, water, sugar, and various spices such as thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Additional ingredients such as basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory, and tarragon may be added for extra flavor. Some recipes even include vegetables such as carrot, celery, celeriac, leek, onion, and parsley root.
After curing, the ham is slowly cooked in a flavored broth that may contain the aforementioned spices and vegetables. Allowing the ham to cool completely in its cooking liquid helps retain its moisture and tenderness. The final product is a slightly salty, mildly sweet and subtly flavored ham that differs from most deli counter hams found in American grocery stores.
French ham substitute
While French Ham is the ideal choice for an authentic Jambon-Beurre, it may not always be readily available. In such cases, there are substitutes that can come close to the flavor profile of French ham. It is important to look for wet-cured or slow-cooked hams without any added smoke flavor. Dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or serrano ham, which are incredibly salty, are not recommended as substitutes. Similarly, American country hams, which are typically dry-cured and sometimes smoked, do not have the desired texture for a French ham sandwich.
Two excellent substitutes for French ham are Applegate Organic Uncured Slow-Cured Ham and Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham. Applegate ham is cooked with spices such as bay, cinnamon, cloves and pimento, which gives it a delicate and spicy flavor. It retains the moist texture required for a Jambon-Beurre, although it may not perfectly replicate the flavor of the Paris ham. Niman Ranch ham is slow cooked, resulting in a less salty yet subtly complex flavor. Its soft and moist texture complements the buttery flavor of a French ham sandwich. Plus, it comes pre-sliced for easy sandwich assembly.
In addition to the recommended substitutions, there are a few other ham options that can be used as alternatives to French Ham. Fra’ Mani Rosemary Ham offers a tender and juicy texture, along with a subtle rosemary flavor that adds an extra layer to the sandwich. Another option is D’Artagnan’s Berkshire Pork Bistro Ham, which shares similarities with French ham in terms of fat and skin cap, tenderness, and lack of strong flavor. These substitutes may not perfectly replicate the flavor of a Jambon-Beurre, but they are a close approximation.
The French Ham Sandwich, or Jambon-Beurre, owes its popularity to the simplicity and quality ingredients used in its preparation. While French Ham is the preferred choice for an authentic experience, substitutes such as Applegate Organic Uncured Slow-Cooked Ham and Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham can provide a similar flavor profile. Whether you choose French ham or one of its substitutes, the key is to choose a wet-cured or slow-cooked ham with no added smoke flavor. With the right choice of ham and other ingredients, such as a ficelle or mini baguette and quality butter, you can create a delicious and satisfying French Ham sandwich that captures the essence of this iconic dish. Enjoy the simplicity and flavors of this classic sandwich and savor the taste of France in every bite. Enjoy!
What is the meaning of the French ham in a French ham sandwich?
French Ham, also known as Paris Ham or Jambon de Paris, is a wet-cured, unsmoked and fully cooked ham that brings a unique flavor and texture to the sandwich. Its succulence, subtle complexity of flavor, and lean meat make it the preferred choice for an authentic French ham sandwich.
Can I use any type of ham as a substitute for French Ham?
While French Ham is recommended for the most authentic taste, there are suitable substitutes. Choose wet-cured or slow-cooked hams without added smoke flavor, such as Applegate Organic Uncured Slow-Cooked Ham or Niman Ranch Jambon Royale Euro-Style Ham, to achieve a similar flavor profile.
What are the characteristics of French ham that set it apart from other deli hams?
French Ham is wet-cured, unsmoked and fully cooked. Unlike many deli hams, it is not frozen before curing, which preserves its quality. It has a mild flavor, a pale pink color, and a succulent texture due to the fat cap that remains on the outside. French Ham is considered a premium charcuterie ham rather than a typical deli ham.
Why should I avoid using dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or serrano ham as a substitute?
Dry-cured hams such as prosciutto or serrano ham are very salty and have a different texture than French ham. These hams are not suitable substitutes as they do not provide the desired moisture and flavor profile for a French ham sandwich.
Are there any other ham options that can be used as a substitute for French ham?
In addition to the recommended substitutes, there are a few other ham options available. Fra’ Mani Rosemary Ham offers a tender texture and subtle rosemary flavor, while D’Artagnan’s Berkshire Pork Bistro Ham shares similarities with French Ham in terms of tenderness and lack of strong flavor. While these alternatives may not perfectly replicate the flavor of a Jambon-Beurre, they offer a close approximation.