it has been almost two weeks since I returned to my home in napa valley after my visit to La Quercia Artisan Meats in Norwalk, Iowa. my company Dean & Deluca, purchased 23 heritage breed hogs that were a cross breed of Chinese Meishan & Red Russian Boar. the Meishan, is a relatively uncommon breed here in the US. they have a distinct pug like face and have large bellies that are prized for their abundant fat. particularly noticeable was the thick back fat which we cured for lardo, and a remarkable quantity of leaf lard, found inside the belly below the the tenderloin, a perfectly creamy white fat prized by charcuterie afficionados for it's delicious qualities after it is rendered.
exective chef of our original store in manhattan, Aaron Albrecht and I, met company food & beverage director Josh Hodapp, at the facility to decide how we would process the hogs and distribute them to all of our Dean & Deluca stores in the US. over the next few weeks, you can expect to see arrivals of the various cuts and the fennel sausage, no less than 400 pounds! available. with the help and guidance of La Quercia owners Herb & Kathy Eckhouse, and the spectacular team at La Quercia, we will see Prosciutto in a year or so, and in upcoming months, pancetta, lardo, coppa and other delicious goodies in our stores. Chef Aaron and I had a great time participating in the breakdown and making the sausage!
i am still in awe at the scope and quality of this operation. in my opinion, La Quercia is the only true producer of prosciutto in america. they have raised the bar incredibly high for quality and quantity of heritage breed pork charcuterie. the respect they have for the tradition, as well as for the responsible farming of the hogs is to be admired. one of the coolest things that i wittnessed was the crew salting the hams that will become prosciutto, while in an almost zen like state, listening to La Traviata! this is sure to make the prosciutto more flavored...this is a trade secret;)
you can find their products in fine stores and restaurants throughout the US. please visit my photo stream by clicking the flickr badge on the left margin of the blog. Buon Appetito!