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.
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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