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 making a Jambon-beurre sandwich is called Jambon de Paris (a.k.a. Paris ham), a ham that’s traditionally made and sold by butchers in the French capital. Paris ham is wet brined and slow cooked, which means it retains a lot of that moisture and soaks in the flavors of the broth it’s cooked in.
Here’s why this variety of ham is 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.
D’Artagnan produce food in New York and Fra’Mani make 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 closest to Boston ham in the U.S. Both hams are cut from the pig’s shoulder, packed tight it 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 tham 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.
- Cutting board
- 1 loaf French baguette (ficelle) (but any long, thin, and/or crispy baguette will do)
- 100 grams Jambon de Paris ham (or any wet cured ham that hasn't been dry cured or smoked)
- 1 stick salted French butter
- 3-4 gherkins
- Slice the baguette ½ for two sandwiches
- Cut each ½ baguette open lengthwise with a sharp knife
- Spread a hefty amount of butter on the inside of each sandwich
- Layer thin slices French ham
- Optionally, add halved gherkins on top of the ham