Few people would guess, on passing this nondescript butcher shop in the small Basque town of Hasparren, that they are passing perhaps the most famous charcuterie in France. This tiny store front was first opened in the 1970’s by Louis Ospital, who was part of a tiny group of hog farmer and ham makers (3 of each to be exact) who, in an effort to foster a return to traditional methods of making Jambon de Bayonne, created the Jambon Label Ibaiama. The label Ibaiama (which means “mother source” in Basque) includes only hams made from traditional Basque hog breeds using traditional handcrafting and aging methods, and has come to be recognized as the finest ham made in France.
Louis’ son Éric has since taken over the family business and become something of a celebrity in the process (yes , a celebrity ham maker…only in France) whose hams, sausages and boudin are served by who’s who of French restaurants (when visiting his ham production and aging facility, one of the first things you notice is that each ham is marked with the name of the restaurant for which it is destined, having purchased it before its 21 months of aging even started.)
Despite his celebrity status, the current day charcuterie of Éric Ospital is almost unchanged since his father’s day, with an amiable mamie behind the counter taking her time to serve a queue of longtime local clients. The ham is sliced by hand or on a slicer (older clients seem to prefer their ham sliced thicker, and therefore by hand) and the chipolatas and basque boudins wrapped to order in waxed butcher paper. The shop still offers fresh pork and Basque specialties “en conserve” in addition to its famous hams and cured meats. Some things don’t change after all.
Boucherie, Charcutier, Trateur L. Ospital
47, rue Jean Lissard, 64240 Hasparren France
05 59 29 63 06