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 enjoys wide availability in the US.

Prosciutto di Parma enjoys wide availability in the US.

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.

Authentic Prosciutto di Parma, aged 16 months

Authentic Prosciutto di Parma, aged 16 months

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.

La Quercia Prosciutto Americano, from nearby Iowa.

La Quercia Prosciutto Americano, from nearby Iowa.

We enjoy including both products on a charcuterie plate.  Taste for yourself to see if you prefer one to the other.

Both are authentic, one is the DOP product from Italy, one is an artisan product from the Midwest

Both are authentic, one is the DOP product from Italy, one is an artisan product from the Midwest

Hyper-Local Prosciutto
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!

Curve ball! 100% local product, ark of taste pig, 26 months aged

Curve ball! 100% local product, ark of taste pig, 26 months aged

What do you think? The traditional product from far away, or an artisan version from closer to home?

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Whichever Prosciutto you choose, a nice dry Lambrusco makes a great pairing

Comments
12 Responses to “Prosciutto Far & Near”
  1. Fred Petters says:

    NIce!!!

    Thanks for sharing, Fred

    : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : Fred Petters Rootstock Wine Company Minneapolis rootstockwineco.com

    mobile 612.423.4392 office 612.378.0316 fredp@rootstockwineco.com

    >

  2. Love Prosciutto! In salads or on cheese trays, i’m not picky!

  3. arneis2013 says:

    Great post, Jeff, as always. I have to say, food and wine – and everything that goes into making it and consuming it – IS a major part of Italy’s culture.

    On your photo of the Black Label Prosciutto di Parma there are two words that say it all: Salt, Pork. Those are the only two ingredients in this delectable food. Nothing else is needed or wanted!

  4. I think both have a place at the table. Plus local prosciutto is better than no prosciutto. I am currently in Santa Barbara; a fantastic wine country and Pinot heaven! Yet, I am struck each time we dine at a local restaurant how little to none local wines are on the list. Shame! I miss Italy!

    • Thanks, Michelle. I agree with the local concept to a point. Minnesota wines are making great progress, but I would hate to have the local wines as our only choice. It sounds like you experienced just the opposite in Santa Barbara!

  5. La Quercia and Prosciutto di Parma both had big events in Philly in 2014. I went to both, and they are both amazing. The Quercia one I loved with some strong blue and warm figs, the Parma was especially good with some Burrata and caviar. I also loved both alone straight from the source, too!

  6. I agree you can get really good artisan products in the US but I don’t think they should be calling it the same as regionally protected items. I don’t think that is fair. If the product is good they don’t need to rely on the reputation of something made over seas.

    • Excellent point. In this case, prosciutto only means ham. There are at least half a dozen Prosciutto di ________ DPO registered types of prosciutto in Italy alone. So La Quercia is being both respectful and authentic by naming their product “Prosciutto Americano”. I agree with you that a vendor calling their prosciutto “Prosciutto di Parma” when it really isn’t is being unfair and dishonest. As consumers, we can always ask to see the ham; no branded crown, it’s not Prosciutto di Parma!

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