But last week I discovered La Quercia (la Kwair-cha, the Oak): it is a company founded in Iowa in 2000 by Herb and Kathy Eckhouse. The couple, after spending a few years in Parma, Italy, came back to the US and asked themselves a simple question: why can't we (in the US) produce prosciutto which is as good as in Italy? We have the pigs (in Iowa pigs outnumber men...), we know the Italian process...
I am surprised that somebody came up with this idea only in 2000. After all, the US has been making cheese that can rival with most of European cheese for years now (this is something that French and Italian people will kill me for, but it is the simple truth. And truth can hurt). So why not cured meat?
I had the pleasure of talking to to Herb Eckhouse last week in Chicago, when he came for a tasting of his cured meat at the Italian grocery shop Panozzo. Not only is he an extremely nice person, but his cured meat is THE REAL DEAL. He makes them using only salt (and in same cases spices) as the additional ingredients to the pig (and in some cases he uses only acorn-fed pigs). He follows the Italian traditional method, and even his machines are imported from Italy. And the result? OUTSTANDING.
|It looks like the real deal. It tastes like the real deal. (Photo from La Quercia FB page)|
What I can tell you is that the prosciutto by La Quercia has consistently been recognized as one of the best prosciutto available in the US. And not only if compared to domestic prosciutto, which is really a joke, but also in comparative tastings with prosciutto di Parma, prosciutto di San Daniele and others.
Now, if you thought that this prosciutto would be cheap because it is American you would be very wrong: it costs 3 times more than an imported Parma ham. Yes, you got that right: this American ham costs three times as much as the imported Italian ham.
But the question you need to ask yourself is: is it worth it? And my answer is a resounding yes. For at least two reasons: 1) it tastes PHENOMENAL; and 2) La Quercia only uses antibiotic-free pigs, and in some cases it uses pigs raised with acorns, exactly like in Italy they used to do. The only ingredients that you will find are pigs and salt. No nitrates (like in the Jamon iberico, which I personally do not like).
So, my advise to you, Constant Reader, is to go to Whole Food or Panozzo, and ask for La Quercia: you can take the classic prosciutto, but if you have never tried speck or coppa, buy them. You will come back to thank me (while I am thanking the Eckhouse...)
(Please note that I had originally written that ALL of La Quercia's prosciutto is made from acorn-fed pigs. This was incorrect, and I therefore changed the text).