La Quercia

Iowa has its world-class products. Maytag Dairy Farms‘ blue cheese and Niman Ranch‘s pork come to mind. But perhaps the greatest example is La Quercia.

Kathy and Herb Eckhouse’s two-year-old prosciutteria supplies cured pork to Whole Foods, Alice Waters and Mario Batali. The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have sung its praises. Robert Parker — yes, that one — offered up his tasting notes with favorable comparisons to the great hams of Europe. Vogue’s food critic Jeffrey Steingarten called it “The best prosciutto you can get in this country, imported or domestic.”

I’m driving out to see the place Wednesday and to grill Herb and Kathy about their five years of prosciutto experiments. Their experimental hams were first cured in a refrigerator, to simulate a Parma, Italy, winter. Then they were hung to cure further. In the couple’s finished basement.

I’m curious to know if they ever cracked open a ham after nine months to a year of curing to find it rotting from the inside out.