Herb Eckhouse and his wife, Kathy, began producing “Prosciutto Americano” eight years ago in a plant they built here, just south of Des Moines. The meat has drawn enthusiastic reviews and is on the menus of upscale restaurants and in shops in New York, Chicago and the Bay Area.
Still, the Eckhouses, in hairnets and lab coats, fuss over details and patrol La Quercia’s cavernous curing rooms.
The plant was designed to mimic the four seasons, and approximate the way prosciutto was made two millenniums ago. Farm families in Italy killed the pigs in late November, salted the meat, then used the cold to help preserve it. Because salmonella — the enemy of all cured meats — thrives in a moist, warm environment, its growth was blocked.
“You salt it in the winter, dry it in the winter, then you’d warm it up in the springtime and kind of age it in the summer. That’s the way our building is laid out,” Eckhouse said.
The hams are moved from chamber to chamber, each replicating a season and filled with equipment made in Italy. Computers control temperature and humidity. Specifics of the aging process (how long and at what temperatures) are secret.
1. prosciutto n.
義式火腿 (yi4 shi4 huo2 tui3)
例: Outside Italy, calling a ham prosciutto indicates that it has been cured.
2. fuss over v. phr.
大驚小怪 (da4 jing1 xiao3 guai4)
例: Don’t fuss over your pupils.
3. mimic v.
模仿；擬態 (mo2 fang3; ni3 tai4)
例: Some animals mimic objects in their environment.