No.1 travel guide for Belgium; dedicated to Belgian beer and food culture.

Tastes of the Ardennes: "Jambon d’Ardenne"


Email  •  Print

Author: Erik Verdonck / Published: 2013-09-30 14:40:08 +0200 / Last Updated: over 1 year ago

Jambon d'Ardenne, Ardennes, Belgium "Al Pele" with Jambon d'Ardenne
© BeerTourism.com


NASSOGNE - Just the name, Ardennes, will set gourmets drooling. They’re getting spontaneous visions of a chunky slice of bread, home-made on the farm, buttered thickly and then covered with Magerotte, Ardennes, Belgium André Magerotte
© BeerTourism.com
a slice of Ardennes ham. We can go one better. We’re having a taste of the real ‘jambon d’Ardenne’.

On the outskirts of the village of Nassogne only 90 minutes away from the busy capital stands a handful of wooden shacks, straight from the movie set of the Three Little Pigs. The rosy-cheeked inhabitants welcome me with a choir of grunts. “We have around 300 pigs here,” farmer-butcher André Magerotte tells me matter-of-factly.

“We have the animals for four months. They arrive when they are two months old and are slaughtered four months later. By that time they will weigh around 110 kilograms.”

The pigs feed themselves on whatever they can find in the field and their diet is supplemented with grains, vitamins and minerals.

As they wander freely, they develop a good set of muscles too. “The meat is marbled with fat,” André explains. “And this gives the characteristically rich taste and tender texture.” When it comes to pork this is some of the finest regional produce to be found around the country.


Ardennes Ham, Magerotte, Belgium Jambon d'Ardenne
© BeerTourism.com


A Pure Taste

In common with pâté gaumais and the Hervé cheese, Ardennes ham is protected by an IGP label of origin (Indication Géographique Protégée, a European Union initiative to protect some special regional products). © BeerTourism.com
However, this label only confirms that the processing was done in the Ardennes.

André has higher standards. “Our ham comes from Ardennes pigs raised here by ourselves,” he tells us. “They were born and raised in this region and fed with locally grown produce. The meat is processed by our local, artisanal village butchers.”

I follow the butcher’s steps to his workshop. “First of all, salt is rubbed into the hams and when saturated, they will rest for 14 days,” André explains. The next stage is rinsing after which the meat will rest for four months in the cooling cellar.

The hams will then dry out at room temperature for seven to eight months. “It is a natural product,” André continues. “The taste will depend on the weather.”

The dried hams are basted with a mixture of lard, olive oil and pepper. Only when all this is done will the butcher decide whether or not to smoke the ham. “The ham is smoked only at the end of the curing process,” André tells us. “This way, it will develop its taste first. The smoky touch of beech or oak is an additional extra.”


Magerotte, Ardennes, Belgium Magerotte's Pork Delicacies
© BeerTourism.com


Shelves in the butcher’s shop groan under the weight of sausages and hams. “In this region every farmer used to breed pigs,” explains André.

“Every bit of the pig was used.” How does he like his ham? “In tapas wrapped into a thin slice, or with a slice of oatmeal bread, or in a salad, in a starter with melon…” the butcher lists his favourite options.

“And I like to have a regional beer with it, a Rochefort, Orval or Saint-Monon.” André cuts off a long slice of ham - “So you get more of the taste.” - I try the meat and couldn't agree more.


La Saint-Monon, Belgian Beer, Beer in Belgium La Saint-Monon
© BeerTourism.com


Against the Wind

For lunch, I make my way to Al Pele’s tavern on the edge of Les Fournaux Saint-Michel open air museum. Here they serve some typical dishes and traditional lumberjack fare like The Walloon ‘Al Pele’ (which means ‘in the pot’).

André, always a welcome guest here and a woodcutter in a former life, recommends the omelette, which is as thick as a fist: “After this, you can walk against the wind!”

With it, I enjoy a blonde Saint-Monon from the microbrewery of the same name in the nearby village of Ambly. “Care for a café liégeois on the house to round off the meal?” Who am I to say no?


André Magerotte, Ardennes Ham, Belgium André Magerotte
© BeerTourism.com


Recent Blog Posts

Hop picking time at Palm Belgian Craft Brewers!
STEENHUFFEL - The annual hop harvest at Palm Belgian Craft Brewers is truly a festival of and for the people. We survey the busy crowds on the last Sunday in August in the hop field in the shadow of t ... [ read more ]
Lindemix... the art of blending Lambic by Lindemans
VLEZENBEEK/DILBEEK - It is often said that lambics are only for those with an experienced palate. At Brouwerij Lindemans, one of Belgium’s favourite brewers of this traditional style, they beg to diff ... [ read more ]
Omer Vander Ghinste celebrates 125 years of brewing craftsmanship
KORTRIJK/BELLEGEM - It was in 1892 that Brouwerij Omer Vander Ghinste opened for business in Bellegem, a village near Kortrijk in West Flanders, close to the French border. Since then, ... [ read more ]
Brasserie de Brunehaut - In tune with the seasons
RONGY - In Rongy and all around it, spring is in the air. The fruit trees are in bloom and nature has put on its most beautiful face. I’m on my way to Brasserie de Brunehaut, a brewery surrounded by o ... [ read more ]
Westmalle Dubbel or Westmalle Tripel?
WESTMALLE - If you order a Westmalle you’re likely to be served with a Tripel. This is no coincidence as this strong blonde Trappist beer now accounts for 75% of the beer output of this abbey brewery. ... [ read more ]

Comments


You must be logged in to leave a comment


SHARE:
 



BLOG

POSTS
De Laet & Van Haver: Where beer meets meat

ANTWERP/HOVE - Last summer, thousands of visitors sampled Luc De Laet’s wares at the Tomorrowland music festival and in a pop-up restaurant in Antwerp. Next year, Luc will open his second butcher... [ more ]

Exploring the Tastes of the Scheldt Region

ANTWERP - I am on a culinary journey from the source of De Koninck to the banks of the Schelde. Having enjoyed a freshly drawn ‘bolleke’ in the shadow of the brewery, I am tracing the upstream course of the river Schel... [ more ]

In Search of Tastes and Terroir

Terroir is a trendy word these days, even though it doesn’t apply to high gastronomy. Although top chefs do make use of regional products, often in exciting ways, our beers, cheeses, syrups, trout or ham are not made... [ more ]

Tastes of Limburg: Hasselt

HASSELT - This city definitely is a tasty destination. Despite its size it’s a surprisingly diverse city with a wide choice of restaurants and specialty shops, perfect for those who want to explore ... [ more ]

La Grande Choufferie (Big Chouffe Party) at Brasserie d'Achouffe

ACHOUFFE / WIBRIN - Chouffe fans, of whom there are many, will have marked the second weekend in August with an extra star in their diaries. That is when the tiny Ardennes village of Achouffe, the home base of the eponym... [ more ]

Orval_trappist_beer_tourism_225

More Beer

Orval is a real stand out. The recipe, the glass, the bottle and the label – all are unique, and all have remained unchanged since Orval’s launch in the 1930s. This beer is also a ... [ more ]

Beer Tourism Newsletter Signup

Enter your name and email address on the right and click "SignUp" to join.

Name:
Email:
TWITTER
    FACEBOOK