My Quest for La Quercia

Last week after our lovely lunch at Mimi’s Hummus, Rachel and I ducked into Market, the gourmet food shop next door. I walked slowly around the store, perusing the jars of local pickles and Middle Eastern spices, purposefully restraining myself from making any unnecessary (yet likely delicious) purchases. In fact, I probably would have left empty-handed had I not taken a closer look at the refrigerated case of cured meats, olives, and cheeses. That’s when I saw the yellow- and green-accented packaging of La Quercia Prosciutto Americano.

La Quercia is the only American producer of high-quality prosciutto, and its products have been lauded by Americans, Italians, and all nationalities in between. I had read about this unique Iowa-based company last year, and had recently tried its prosciutto at Danny Meyer’s new restaurant, Maialino. My dining partners and I were astonished by the meat’s authentic, natural flavor, and how it more than held its own against the Italian offerings on the cured meat platter we shared as an antipasto. But it was only after I found this pre-sliced, handy package of La Quercia’s cured pork at Market that I reviewed the company’s inspiring background again.

Herb and Kathy Eckhouse lived in Parma, Italy, for three and a half years, and fell in love with the idea of making Italian dry-cured meats in their home state of Iowa. After years of experimentation with this centuries-old tradition, the Eckhouses founded La Quercia (“oak” in Italian) in 2000. Not content to simply create an Italian facsimile of prosciutto, La Quercia produces cured meats that celebrate Iowa’s natural bounty without using artificial ingredients or preservatives. All of the pigs for its various cured products—in addition to different variations of prosciutto, La Quercia makes speck, coppa, pancetta, and guanciale—come from within 200 miles of the prosciuttificio, and are raised on vegetarian, grain-based diets, without antibiotics. These are pig products we can all feel good about.

I took the simple route with my package of Prosciutto Americano, draping its thin slices over squares of cantaloupe and eating it for lunch. Each buttery, supple slice was a revelation. The chewy, slightly fatty meat, falling in elastic sheets over the fresh fruit, was less salty yet somehow creamier than other Italian prosciutto I have tried, and I found myself eating slice after slice without pause. Later in the week, Jim and I sandwiched the remaining pieces in between some turkey cutlets for this recipe, adding a more intense layer of flavor to a simple meal. No matter what dish it appeared in, La Quercia’s prosciutto was the star. And we have Iowa and the Eckhouses to thank for it.

La Quercia’s prosciutto and other artisanal cured meats can be found at specialty food and grocery stores such as Whole Foods and the Red Hook Fairway. Check out their website for more store and ordering information.


11 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Alysia said,

    You have an Iowa tag! Go pork!

  2. 3

    Cheryl said,

    You had me at the mere mention of cured meats, but then you went on to describe the prosciutto as “buttery,” and now I’m just mad that I don’t have some right now!!!!

  3. 5

    JKenny said,

    I’ll have to look for this stuff out West.

    • 6

      Christina said,

      I’m sure it’s out there somewhere! Check the La Quercia website–they have a list of stores that sell it and restaurants that serve it. It’s hiding out in La-La land somewhere.

      • 7

        JKenny said,

        So, last night while out at dinner, I had the following appetizer: Haricot Vert, chanterelles, shallots, La Quercia prosciutto, whole grain mustard dressing

        The prosciutto was very nice. Good flavor, not overwhelmingly salty. Thanks for the recommendation. I would have likely missed out on this tasty treat had it not been for your blog.

      • 8

        Christina said,

        JKenny-So glad I could help!

  4. 9

    Amy B. said,

    Cured meats are my favorite. Nothing beats nicely marinated and tasty meats!

  5. 10

    Cindy said,

    Oh, yes, we are so lucky here in Iowa to have La Quercia – a treasure, indeed! I especially like the little packets of prosciutto that are sort of ground up – a truly awesome additive to things!

    • 11

      Christina said,

      La Quercia is indeed a treasure, and I am so glad to have finally found their products! I haven’t come across the prosciutto packets you describe, but I will keep my eye out for them. I imagine I could make some delicious pasta with their ground prosciutto! Thanks so much for your comment!

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