A couple of years ago, I found myself hungry and in a hurry on the streets of Paris. I opened my phone and googled what a Parisian person would do in my situation. So I went to the nearest bakery and bought myself a Jambon-beurre sandwich.
Jambon-beurre is a classic French sandwich made of a baguette that’s sliced open, spread with butter, and filled with slices of ham. It’s super popular in France — every day, more than 3 million Jambon-beurre sandwiches are sold nationwide.
And, if you ask me, for a good reason. This ingeniously simple sandwich lets its three ingredients speak for themselves. The long and thin baguette, creamy and sweet butter, and salty wet cured ham are a true match made in heaven.
If you’re here, you probably agree with me already. And you’re here to find out the answer to a very specific question: “What’s the best ham for Jambon-beurre?”
The best ham for Jambon-Beurre is Jambon de Paris, known stateside as Paris ham. It’s a juicy and flavorful ham that’s wet-brined and slow-cooked. You will find it in every self-respecting Parisian butcher shop and deli store.
Let us see what makes this type of French ham so special.
What Is Jambon de Paris (Paris Ham)?
Jambon de Paris is sold as blocks of pale pink ham with lines of fat, which usually weigh about 5 kilograms (11 pounds).
Made from pork that’s boned, deveined, and dressed, Jambon de Paris is then brined and cooked in rectangular casks for several hours.
Jambon de Paris tastes so good because it’s wet brined and slow cooked. The wet brine means that the ham retains a lot of moisture. And that moisture adds a lot of flavor because the ham itself is slow cooked in vegetable broth.
The ham is cooked in stock made of juniper, coriander, garlic cloves, and bouquet garni (a bunch of herbs, usually parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, encased in cheesecloth).
Where can you buy Jambon de Paris? If you live in the U.S. or Canada, finding Paris ham is not as easy. Probably the best Jambon de Paris you can find is Petit Jambon de Paris made by Les Trois Petits Cochons, a boutique North American maker of French foods since 1975.
Paris Ham Substitute
Jambon de Paris can be costly and hard to find, especially if you don’t live in France or one of its neighbouring countries in Europe. What are some good substitutes for Paris ham?
The important thing to remember is that not all hams are created equal. In any case, you’re better off going to a butcher shop or deli — and picking up a whole ham — instead of buying sliced ham from the supermarket.
One ham I wholeheartedly recommend is the Berkshire Pork Bistro Ham made and sold by D’Artagnan. Well-marbled in texture, this ham is cooked, but not cured or smoked. I’d say is just as juicy and tender as Jambon de Paris and is a really great substitute for it.
Other substitutes for Paris ham are Fra’Mani’s Sweet Apple Uncured Ham and Rosemary Uncured Ham. (Both of these hams have the tenderness and juiciness you’re probably looking for.)
D’Artagnan produces food in New York and Fra’Mani makes theirs in California. Hopefully, that makes the challenge of finding great ham easier, no matter on which coast you live.
Can’t you use any ham from any butcher shop? Technically, you could. The ham is probably not going to be as close to the original and authentic French recipe, but for some of you, that doesn’t really matter as much as for others.
So I’m going to share with you a little secret: French ham is the closest to Boston ham in the U.S. Both hams are cut from the pig’s shoulder, packed tight in a cask, and shipped. This way of making ham was brought to the U.S. by Europeans. It grew popular on both sides of the Atlantic because the ham didn’t require refrigeration.
Just head to a good butcher shop in town — and look for Boston ham or any kind of ham that’s cooked, but hasn’t been dry cured or smoked.
How to Make a Jambon-Beurre Sandwich
Now that we know the ham, here’s the sandwich. At least in France, there’s no better way to eat Paris ham than in a Jambon-beurre (ham and butter) sandwich.
This sandwich is brilliantly simple and unbelievably crunchy and delicious.
Here’s how to make one.
Jambon Beurre Sandwich
- Chef's knife
- Cutting board
- 1 loaf French bread baguette or ficelle
- 4 oz cooked ham Jambon de Paris or cooked ham
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Bring the butter to room temperature 15 minutes before making the sandwich to make it more evenly spreadable.
- Make two sandwiches out of the bread by cutting it in half, then crosswise in the middle.
- Spread butter on both sides. Put the ham in the middle. Close the sandwich and serve.