IOWA PROFILE: Local Prosciutto Makes Big Splash - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

IOWA PROFILE: Local Prosciutto Makes Big Splash

By: Jason Rantala

@jarantala

jrantala@myabc5.com

The thousand-year-old delicacy made by Herb Eckhouse and his wife Kathy can best be described with one word:

"Tasty," said Grace Singleton.

"Just melts in your mouth," said Herb. 

Prosciutto, the dry–cured, thinly sliced ham starts out as a pig's hind leg. It's salted, left to sit for weeks, dried and aged in six steps.

It's not a quick process, the hams are aged up to three years, but for people like Grace Singleton, it produces amazing results. 

"Herb's are just very special. The prosciutto are just amazingly flavored," said Singleton.

Singleton sells Herb's product at Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich.

It was back in 1986, Herb and Kathy left for Parma, Italy for Herb's job. That was where he discovered prosciutto. 

"We have this amazing bounty in Iowa, we should be making something that enables Americans to have that experience," said Herb.

Herb took a gamble. He left his job and started La Quercia back in 2000.

"2006 was really when we started to take off," said herb.

That was the year Herb received some very high praise, from Jeffrey Steingarten, a food critic for Vogue Magazine.

"He wrote that our prosciutto was the best prosciutto imported or domestic that he's ever eaten." 

The positive reviews rolled in from the likes of Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and the New York Times.

In 2006, they produced about 350 pieces of prosciutto per week. Today that number has jumped to 1,700. 

"We took a significant financial risk," said Herb's wife, Kathy.

Not only is their product now offered locally at places like the Renaissance Hotel and Alba, it's also nationally requested from chefs in New York, California and Chicago.

"It was really thrilling to have people appreciate what you do," said Kathy. 

So what sets Herb's prosciutto apart?

It's all in the process. Herb gets his pigs from a farm in Missouri, where they're fed an acorn diet, something he says makes the meat extra tender.

As for growing the company bigger, Herb and Kathy say they're as big as they want to be, and if anything want to expand on quality, not quantity. 

"We enjoy what we do and we hope that when people eat what we make they feel joy and they feel connected to the beauty and the bounty of Iowa," said Herb.

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