Sky Full of Bacon

Sky Full of Bacon 10: Prosciutto di Iowa

Can food as good as Europe’s best come from the midwest? Go inside the Italian-style prosciuttificio of La Quercia in Norwalk, Iowa, and see for yourself.

Sky Full of Bacon 10: Prosciutto di Iowa from Michael Gebert on Vimeo.

Here’s an example of a local food from the midwest that’s not just good for a local product, but as good as any of its kind on earth. Since it first hit the market in 2005-6, the prosciutto made by La Quercia has been hailed in rhapsodic terms by top chefs and food writers (as you’ll see and hear from three of Chicago’s top chefs). Herb and Kathy Eckhouse set out to make a truly world-class product—and to do it in accordance with their principles about being environmentally responsible and humane toward the pigs they use. In this Sky Full of Bacon podcast, we tour the prosciuttificio south of Des Moines to see how state-of-the-art technology simulates the traditional Italian way of making prosciutto, and we hear the Eckhouses talk about how they got started, how they’ve built a business in line with their principles, and about getting Iowa farmers to adopt the ancient practice of raising pigs on acorns for the best hams.

Bonus Audio Podcast

I conducted a long and thoughtful interview with the Eckhouses, only a small part of which could fit into the video. So I’ve condensed the highlights of it into a 44-minute audio podcast which goes into greater depth into such issues as starting and marketing an artisanal food business, and how their prosciutto fits into the local food movement. It’s an interesting conversation that expands on much of what’s in the video; you can listen to it below, or go here, or listen to it at iTunes here.

La Quercia’s website is here. I highly, highly recommend the organic prosciutto. It costs more, but it’s worth the extra.

Here’s Jeffrey Steingarten’s December 2006 piece from Vogue, referenced in the video. (You have to register to read the whole thing.)

Here’s a NY Times piece which came out right after I first contacted them— I thought for sure they’d be too busy for me after that, but thankfully not. (You glimpse it on the wall in the video.)

Here’s a piece by, who else, Mike Sula in the Reader a couple of years ago on their guanciale.

Here’s a piece (which was Beard-nominated) on Russ Kremer, one of the two farmers Kathy’s talking about at the end when she says if she had to be a pig, this is where she’d want to be one. (The other is Jude Becker, who is the “Jude” Brian Huston of The Publican refers to offhand in Sky Full of Bacon #5, incidentally. It’s a small world of good, humane pork.)


About Sky Full of Bacon
Sky Full of Bacon #9: Raccoon Stories
Sky Full of Bacon #8: Pear-Shaped World
Sky Full of Bacon #7: Eat This City
Sky Full of Bacon #6: There Will Be Pork (pt. 2)
Sky Full of Bacon #5: There Will Be Pork (pt. 1)
Sky Full of Bacon #4: A Head’s Tale
Sky Full of Bacon #3: The Last Brisket Show
Sky Full of Bacon #2: Duck School
Sky Full of Bacon #1: How Local Can You Go?

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14 Responses to “Sky Full of Bacon 10: Prosciutto di Iowa”

  1. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » Sky Full of Bacon 10b: La Quercia Bonus Audio Podcast Says:

    […] more information on this and the accompanying video podcast, go here.  (This post is mainly just to alert iTunes.  The real info is […]

  2. The Local Beet: Chicago » Sky Full of Bacon: Prosciutto di Iowa Says:

    […] You can view the episode here. (There’s also a bonus audio portion lower on the page. Check it out. […]

  3. David Hammond Says:

    At various points in this video, I almost felt patriotic about pork. It seems La Quercia is clearly setting itself in competition with European meat (specifically Italian), and I think it’s so cool that they’re acquitting themselves so well. California is usually that state that gives Europe a run for its money (with wine, for instance); it’s excellent that Iowa is now on the frontlines in this effort.

    I’ve been using the term “corporate pork,” but “confinement pork” is much more descriptive and touches on the main problem I have with meat that comes from a feedlot, which is that the animals are unhappy prisoners and so, I think, less likely to yield tasty meat.

    Wonder what they do with all those tasty scraps. Sausage, I suppose?

    Ham Independence Day? I’m all in.

  4. Michael Gebert Says:

    I asked if there was some traditional sausage made from the scraps of prosciutto but no, that stuff just goes in the trash.

    If you really want to be in with the hip kids, it’s CAFO pork. (Confined Animal Feeding Operation. Sounds as humane as it is.) Anyway, one of the things that’s so great is when your subject says in 30 seconds what it took a whole book like Pig Perfect to get across about why confinement operations are such an environmental blight.

  5. The Local Beet: Chicago » Link O’Wednesday Says:

    […] Eat local ham! […]

  6. Jon in Albany Says:

    Great video. Really enjoyed it.

  7. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » Welcome, Earthlings Says:

    […] about Sky Full of Bacon at the Printers Row Literary Festival, you can see the La Quercia video here or all the video podcasts here.  Then check out the blog for eclectic food commentary, and get my […]

  8. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » Milestones Says:

    […] Orange Cream Hershey’s Kiss to everyone, as we tick off some happy milestones: first off, the new podcast about La Quercia just passed 1000 views after about two weeks of being publically viewable.  And it’s […]

  9. Cooking and Eating Local: Midwestern Crudo: Global in Spirit, Local Incarnate « Pleasant House Says:

    […] Bacon documentary series,  has a great way of capturing this philosophy on video with his “Prosciutto di Iowa” piece. The fact that both the smelts and the pork are transformed by the simple addition of […]

  10. La Quercia Prosciutto Shavings, Porcini Marmelade, Wild Arugula, Majorero Cheese, BLiS Elixir | The Pickled Tongue Says:

    […] Iowa based prosciutto producers of La Quercia at the following link from Michael Gebert’s  Sky Full of Bacon blog. I highly recommend checking it […]

  11. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » One Blog, Two Fish, Reader Blog, Char Fish Says:

    […] of podcasts, while I was in Wyoming saying nasty things about Julia Child, the La Quercia podcast passed 2000 views at Vimeo to become the third-most-watched to date, which is cool, to me anyway […]

  12. Prosciutto and Beer at Goose Island Brewery, Chicago Says:

    […] started making their own from high quality Iowan pork. Michael Gebert of Sky Full of Bacon has a video posted which gives a behind the scenes look at La Quercia’s prosciutto process. Prosciutto Detail […]

  13. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » My Top Ten of 2009 Says:

    […] Berkshire, but noshing on a variety of hams at the Eckhouse’s home during the shoot for Sky Full of Bacon #10, the green label organic clearly seemed a level or two above their already excellent product, and […]

  14. Sky Full of Bacon » Blog Archive » Sky Full of Bacon 12: In the Land of Whitefish Says:

    […] Full of Bacon #11: A Better Fish Sky Full of Bacon #10: Prosciutto di Iowa Sky Full of Bacon #9: Raccoon Stories Sky Full of Bacon #8: Pear-Shaped World Sky Full of Bacon #7: […]