Prosciutto Far & Near
The Prosciutto Question
On our first trip to Italy, I was impressed by how dedicated Italians are to local culture, foods and wine. Not just Italian, but regional products. We never saw Parmigiano Reggiano cheese while we were visiting the Piedmont, they would only use products from within their region. Even modest wine shops had a wide variety of Barolo and Barbaresco wines, but nothing from Tuscany. Don’t even think of a wine from France!
My question is this: in exploring the foods and wines of regional Italy from afar, am I more authentic buying the Italian “real deal” or a regional product from the US? Prosciutto is a perfect example.
Prosciutto di Parma is widely available in the US. I can even get 16 month aged Prosciutto di Parma at my local grocery store.
Prosciutto di Parma
Traditional Prosciutto di Parma comes from specific breeds of hog raised in approved regions of Italy. An approved hog, Italian sea salt, air and time are the only allowed ingredients, and the facility must be in a specified region near Parma. No additives or preservatives, just the pure flavor of the ham. Even though it’s cured with salt, the ham doesn’t taste too salty.
La Quercia Prosciutto Americano
La Quercia is an artisan producer of cured meats from just a short distance away in Iowa. Their Prosciutto Americano is also an authentic artisan product. Humanely raised, antibiotic free pork, cured only with sea salt, air and time (sound familiar?). While not the same, a slice of this ham is as much a treat as the Italian product.
We enjoy including both products on a charcuterie plate. Taste for yourself to see if you prefer one to the other.
We recently had the chance to sample a rare treat. Over the last few years, Craig Sharp, the chef at Terra Waconia has been making an occasional Prosciutto ham. At the restaurant a few weeks ago, Craig was hand carving his amuse-bouche for the evening: 26 month aged local Prosciutto. Added benefit: the hog had been a red wattle pig, a Slow Foods International Ark of Taste breed!
What do you think? The traditional product from far away, or an artisan version from closer to home?