PGI Carmarthen ham is an air-dried, salt-cured ham made from pork legs. The ham is hung at an ambient temperature of 16-26 degrees centigrade for a period of 6 to 9 months. The age of ‘Carmarthen Ham’ is counted from the first day of salting.
The finished ham has a rounded external shape at the base and is tapered to the top. Externally a whole ‘Carmarthen Ham’ is dark beige colour and the skin (or rind) has a hard dry ‘leathery’ feel. When sliced, ‘Carmarthen Ham’ has a uniform rich deep pink to dark red colour, with interspersed cream coloured fat throughout. It has a slight salty, sweet pork taste and a soft springy texture. It has a delicate and mellow flavour with salty overtones, providing a balanced sensation between tenderness and a tendency to melt. ‘Carmarthen Ham’ has a characteristic delicate aroma typical of air-dried ham. The ham disintegrates when pulled and has a silky soft texture. The layer of fat which is a cream on the surface below the rind must not exceed the maximum acceptable depth of 5 mm. The hams are presented and marketed as whole hams or boned, sliced and packed in pieces of various weights and shapes according to customer requirements.
Specific steps in production that must take place in the identified geographical area:
— trimming and shaping of the pork legs
— application of preservative
— addition of salt
— reapplying salt
— netting of hams
— ripening or maturing of the ham
The designated geographical area encompasses an area around Carmarthen town.
‘Carmarthen Ham’ is an air-dried, salt-cured, whole bone-in ham weighing between 4-5 kgs and takes 6-9 months to mature. Pig-keeping/farming has had a long history of association throughout Wales including West Wales and the Carmarthen area, and Welsh families throughout Wales and the Carmarthen area have been curing Welsh pork in dry salt to preserve it for generations. The production of Carmarthen Ham developed only in the Carmarthen area as a result of a local butcher identifying a demand for maturing hams longer than the three months which was the normal practice at the time, and eating the ham raw similar to continental hams as opposed to being traditionally eaten fried or boiled.
The specificity of the geographical area is based upon skill base and reputation. The skill base has developed over 30 years in the area. The skill base that has arisen in the designated area, amounts to specific skills and experience throughout the processing stage but in particular at the following stages:
— The shaping of the legs, to remove excess fat and flesh to produce the specific desired shape which is a rounded external shape at the base and tapered to the top.
— The exact quantities of preservatives and salt added will vary very slightly according to weight and size of the ham, and time of the year when the ham is being produced. With heavier, larger hams, very slightly more salt and preservatives is required. Hams made when the ambient temperatures are higher during summer months also require slightly more salt and preservatives to preserve them compared to hams made during cooler winter months.
— The reapplying and massaging of the salt into the ham. Moisture is removed from the flesh of the ham by the addition of the salt. Skill is required to know when sufficient moisture has been removed to produce Carmarthen Ham. This is achieved by assessing the firmness of the muscle and is a ‘feel’ which is a skill passed down from one generation to the next.
— Monitoring the maturing of the hams and determining the ‘readiness’ of the ham by feeling the ham for its firmness and dryness. Externally a whole ‘Carmarthen Ham’ is dark beige in colour and the skin (or rind) has a hard dry ‘leathery’ feel. Recognising the correct ‘feel’ of the mature ‘Carmarthen Ham’ is a skill passed down from one generation to the next.
‘Carmarthen Ham’ has been sold in the historically famous Carmarthen market since the 1970s. The unique characteristics of ‘Carmarthen Ham’ as a quality product are now widely recognised and in demand by consumers throughout Wales, UK and overseas. ‘Carmarthen Ham’ has been served at royal garden parties and in many famous hotels and restaurants, including The Celtic Manor during the prestigious Ryder Cup in 2010. ‘Carmarthen Ham’ has also been featured regularly on television programmes and in the press, and Carmarthen Ham has been awarded a Great Taste Award for the ‘Best Welsh Speciality’.