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Charcuterie Mayté

Charcuterie Mayté | Maître Philippe & Filles

Anais Causse in Espelette I wanted to use my summer vacation this year to visit some of maître philippe's most important suppliers. One of them was the company Mayté, from the French Basque country, from which we obtain the Bayonne ham, the chorizo ​​and some salami specialties.

So one morning we drove into the Pyrenees. The mountains kept getting higher and mightier, and the fog clung to the densely wooded slopes. Directly after Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, a town that was unexpectedly overrun by tourists - it is the last stop on French soil on the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela - we came to the much more tranquil village of Saint-Jean-Le -Vieux, where Mayté has its production site and one of its shops.
We entered the shop, a very small shop of maximum 20 m². One side is occupied by a refrigerated counter, in which the sausages are presented in an appealing and appetizing way, on the other side of the room there are shelves with canned goods and jars.

Éric Mayté quickly came forward to greet us personally. He introduced us to his wife Sylvie, who takes care of the organizational part of the company. Immediately afterwards he proudly presented us with the newest addition to the family, their third child, a little girl who was born a month ago.
Then he told us the story of the Mayté house, which he and his wife are now running in the fifth generation. The company was founded in 1884 in the same building where it is still based. The first two generations were more butchers, producing a few Basque meat specialities, and otherwise lived off the travelers who stayed at your house and ate at the on-site small restaurant. Éric led us next door into a large room with a high ceiling and dark wooden beams. The room opens to the side through a huge wooden gate. Horse-drawn carriages used to drive in through this gate so that travelers could get out safely and go straight to the sleeping quarters above. A few years ago they carefully renovated this room, put in a beautiful tiled floor and put in some old wooden cabinets to display their products. This room now serves as a reception and tasting room for visitors.

Business stagnated somewhat during the Second World War, but after that, with the new methods of preservation (canning, etc.), the company opened up completely new possibilities for distributing its products. They closed the guest house and restaurant and henceforth concentrated on the production of ham and sausage products.
We enjoyed a VIP tour of the entire production facility. Éric showed us everything, from the delivery of goods to the cold rooms, where large pieces of meat hang, to the production rooms. The meat for their products comes exclusively from the region, from four small towns near Saint-Jean-Le-Vieux. Mayté buys the animals “sur pied”, ie he goes to the breeder and selects the animals he wants. Slaughtering is done by a selected butcher 6 km away. Many of the animals are delivered whole and they cut them up themselves on site; they only buy individual upper shells for the ham production. Otherwise, they try to utilize the whole animal as completely as possible.
At Mayté, too, manual work is still very important and is practiced 100%. Mayté proudly showed us his salami ripening chambers, in which the raw sausages are stored for several days at relatively high temperatures and high humidity. Within these few days, the white Penicillium mold forms on the salami, which not only gives it taste, but above all also increases the shelf life of the product, as it prevents the formation of other (harmful) types of mold. After this process, the sausages are hung in classic cooling chambers, where they dry and the mold formation is further promoted.

Now to the ham production: The house of Mayté produces four different types of ham. The Jambon Ibaïona, the Jambon Terroir, the Jambon Sauveur and the Bayonne ham, which can also be bought at maître philippe.
Like all other hams, Bayonne ham is first rubbed by hand with a special reddish salt and spice mixture. It is then stored in refrigerated chambers, where the salt then slowly melts and penetrates the hams to a certain depth. After a while, the ham is freed from salt and hung up in a special chamber. A fairly complex process of maturation begins, alternately removing and adding moisture and increasing and decreasing the temperature in the chamber accordingly. During all this time, however, the ham always retains its core temperature of 3.5°C. The ham dries without drying out and the salt penetrates from the outer layers of the ham to the very core. When the salt has completely penetrated the ham, the ham is preserved to such an extent that nothing more can happen. The ham is then wrapped in fine fabric bags to protect it from insects and dried in the open air at room temperature. Depending on the season, this takes 10 to 12 months.
In addition to the ham and the salamis, the Maytés also produce chorizo, various pâtés and preserves with typical dishes from the region. Éric is a trained chef and attended a state charcutier school for three years. The recipes they cook from in the house are all traditional recipes that Éric, together with three chefs who work for him, taste and adapt if necessary. There is a lively exchange of ideas within the company.

Eric Mayté spent a lot of time with us. There was a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout the house. During our visit, the two older children came home and excitedly told their father about school. It was the first day of school after the holidays. Éric listened carefully to his children while we tasted some products and then he turned back to us and we continued the conversation. At the end of our visit, we jokingly asked who of his three children would eventually take over the company. Éric laughed and said we'll see. But to run such a company, you would need a good portion of passion for the job!
After visiting Mayté we decided to explore the area a little further and drove to some of the well-known typical Basque villages. The village of Espelette is known worldwide for its allspice, the Piment d'Espelette, which is grown in the region and is an AOC product (Appelation d'Origine Controlé = Protected Designation of Origin). In autumn, the facades of the pretty Basque houses turn completely red when long rows of allspice pods are hung on the walls to dry.

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