Ganda, craftsmanship and tradition
Based on an artisan tradition, Ganda Ham is dried and matured naturally for a minimum of 10 to 16 months, with pork, sea salt, and ... time being the only ingredients. And it shows!
History and production of Ganda Ham
An age-old story
The natural dry salted ham, recognised and acknowledged as top quality, carries an interesting story with it.
Like father, like son
In 1954 Roger Cornelis and his wife established themselves as independent butchers in a rented house in Wetteren. They moved to Mariakerke (Ghent) in 1958 to a larger establishment, after the business grew considerably.
A village butcher's shop
In 1969 they decided to sell the shop in Mariakerke and started a meat-producing company on a piece of land in Destelbergen, then owned by Roger Cornelis’ parents-in-law. A workshop with a surface area of roughly 500m² was built behind the existing villa, where they produced boiled meats and salted hams.
In 1980 the one-man business became a limited liability company and Roger's son, Dirk Cornelis, joined the business. By the end of 1981 the annual turnover was 1.24 million euro, and by 1985 the total turnover for boiled meats and hams had reached roughly 4 million euro. The brand name « GANDA » was introduced on a limited scale in 1985, then comprising about 10% of the overall turnover.
From the Romans to Ganda
Tradition and craft, descending from the Ancient Belgians.
Pork meat from the Ancient Belgians
Let’s return to the fourth century before Christ. The Celts, an Indo-German nation, inhabit the major part of what is now Western-Europe. In our regions they find the ideal location to establish a settlement on the confluence of the rivers Leie and Scheldt. And since Ganda is the Old-Celtic word for confluence, it will give the city of Ghent its name. And in the end it will become the symbol for the balanced combination of man and nature in the flat Flemish landscape, where a handmade dry salted raw ham is the top of gastronomy.
At the beginning of our chronology the Celts that live in the northern part of Gaul are considered Belgians. A group of 15 large populations, that –according to Julius Caesar (in his ‘De Bello Gallico’)- differ from the other Gauls in language, barbarity and braveness. In that time Flanders is overgrown with mixed deciduous forests. Giant woods, where roots, acorns, chestnuts and beech nuts are the ideal food for the pigs that live there in hurds. The Old Belgians succeed in domesticating these pigs. They use them as a kind of natural waste treatment. At that time they already know the art of preparing the most delicious dried and salted hams.
The Romans were impressed by this delicacy. Dried and salted meat preserves longer, which makes is ideal food for their legions. They start sending tons of pig-meat to Rome. Cato writes (about 200 years B.C.): "In Italy are three- to fourthousand pigsides and -hams tucked away in underground repositories."
The artisan tradition for the preparation of dry salted raw ham was passed on from generation to generation. Today Western-European farmers still honour this tradition. The pig farmers butchered their animals from november until february. In the cold of winter they rubbed the hams with salt in order to conserve them and to mature them. By springtime the meat was moved to the shed to dry. A natural fermentation process gives the hams their wonderful mahogany wood color and their superior taste. Sometimes the ham was hung up in the chimney of the fire place to smoke it.
A small village butcher’s shop
In 1954 Roger Cornelis and his wife Maria Mattheeuws started a modest butcher’s shop in the village of Wetteren. Four years later the family moves to Mariakerke, nearby Ghent. At that time nothing indicates that their meat company “Vleeswaren Corma” (composed by the first letters of their family names) would grow to be marketleader for the artisan treatment of dried raw hams.
Roger Cornelis produces all his meats in an artisan way. The business soon outgrows the house and they need to move to a larger building in Destelbergen. That is where the couple of entrepreneurs start their meat company in 1969, specialising in the production of cookware and salted hams.
The turning point
1978 is a turning point. Roger Cornelis runs some small scale tests for the production of raw ham based on dry salting according to the old Flemish process. Today this technique is also used in Italy and Spain. The results surpass his expectations and Vleeswaren Corma starts the production of hams salt dried for 6 months.
From father to son
In 1980 Vleeswaren Corma evolves from sole proprietorship to a company with limited liability. His son, Dirk Cornelis, joins the company and immediately starts to experiment with the salting process of the hams. By going back to the ancient methods of the small pig farmers he discovers that dry salting has a positive effect on the final taste. He learns that a dry salted ham can perfectly mature without adding any nitrates. Furthermore Dirk discovers that the use of seasalt results in very interesting aromas.
It‘s interesting to compare both existing ways of salting. During the process of pickling the hams are piled one on the other in a pickling barrel. The salt penetrates the ham and the moisture is pressed out. This is the usual process for the industrial preparation of hams in Belgium and the Netherlands. The original process of dry salting however was already used in ancient times by the pig farmers. They rubbed the outside of the ham with dry salt. This way the salt extracts the moisture from the meat, but the juice remains in the ham. The latter turns out to be a hit. In hardly five years time the turnover triplicates. In 1985 the family searches for a specific brand to replace the former “Vlaamse Boerenham” or Flemish Peasant Ham. They finally choose ‘Ganda Ham’, referring to the place of origin.
In 1987 Mrs. Mattheeuws passes away. This is the motive for father Cornelis to pass the management of the company to his son Dirk as from 1990. What ensues is a period of never ending investments in personnel, material and buildings. The ‘meat market’, where cookware is directly sold to the consumer, is stopped in order to focus completely on the professional production process of Ganda Ham. The ever-growing demand for dry salted hams leads to further expansion of the company, that changed its form again to a 'naamloze vennootschap' (Ltd.). Also, in 1992, Ganda is trailblazing in its market by being the first to achieve the ISO-9002 certificate. Adding proof to its commitment to quality care.
In the meantime, expansion continues by starting and acquiring other businesses.
In 2002 First Selection België nv is founded. Main activities being the slicing and prepackaging of meat products. Firstly the Ganda Ham products. Secondly, the production for others.
2008 is the year in which Vleeswaren Hoste based in Maldegem is acquired. Its core business is also the production of dried and smoked ham. The products of Vleeswaren Hoste are now marketed as "Brugse ham".
Ganda also expanded its activities accross other branches of the food industry. Le Larry nv, a natural and artisanal goats' cheese producer, is added to the roster in 2004. Three years later, the production facilities are relocated to the Haenhoutstraat in Destelbergen.
Recently, Ganda Ham took a majority interest in Vasedel, another goats' cheese producer located in Vielsalm. A beautiful village in the Ardennes.
The total revenue of the Ganda group amounts to 25 million Euros in 2020.
The foundation of Ganda Ham, in Ghent (Belgium)
The name Ganda originates from the ancient Celtic name that was given to the city of Ghent, indicating the confluence of the rivers Leie and Scheldt. Ganda is also the delicate equilibrium between human and nature in the Flamish lands between the rivers. The place where an artisanal, dry salted ham is the summit of gastronomy.
We want to be a trustworthy partner for our employees, customers and suppliers. Therefore we strive for a sustainable interaction with energy, the environment and society.
The pig, companion of men since thousands of years.
We take note of the first domesticated pigs alongside the first people, changing from a nomad to a sedentary existence. Throughout history the pig has been the most frequently eaten food in our regions. Today, this is still the case.
A couple of master chefs created unique and surprising dishes with Ganda Ham. Inspire yourself with these pieces of art.