Carmarthen Ham, South Wales
As with much of the rest of Britain, keeping pigs in Wales was a boon for families and farmers alike, a way to supplement the winter diet, the animal’s flesh and fat well-suited to recipes that kept it edible for months after processing. Thus making ham is one of the oldest artisan traditions in our food culture.
Carmarthen has earned a reputation for the quality of its dry-salted hams, as is usual with Welsh cures generally with less saltpetre than you’d expect elsewhere in Britain so with a darker, less pinky hue to the finished meat. Traditionally the area’s hams should be matured for up to 9 months.
While the much repeated (tongue-in-cheek) legend about Romans nicking the idea of air-drying hams from the Welsh and taking it back to Parma suggests real antiquity to the product eaten raw, it is the versions that were cooked before eating that date back into the mists of time.
The one now prepared by the Rees family (said to have been involved in the ham business for some 200 years) for eating raw, sliced thinly, is of far more recent vintage. Which is not to say it is not excellent – deeply flavoured and unashamedly salty, a wonderful addendum to an already highly-renowned regional food legend.