Oliviero Colmignoli (Olli)–the prosciutto-maker with Ossabaw procuitto at the SF Fancy Food Show

Oliviero Colmignoli (Olli) the prosciutto-maker with Ossabaw prosciutto at the SF Fancy Food Show

[see the 2011 Whole Hog menu]

The Duroc is a good pig. Back in the day, people were really happy with a nice Duroc. We still like Paul Willis’s hogs, a mixed breed known as Farmers’ Hybrid. This is a combination of older breeds, having good mothering skills, higher backfat than conventional pigs and a sturdy constitution for outdoor living.

In recent years there has been increasing interest to find the “next big thing” in regards to pig breeds. This has led to tracking down small ranchers working with lesser know breeds, as well as a restored interest and a deeper understanding of breed traits and quality.

You can really taste good pork in cured meats, particularly prosciutto. And some of the breeds now finding attention can be truly delicious. So, for the 2011 Whole Hog Dinners, we’ll be offering tastings of some of these newly re-discovered breeds.

The Ossabaw variety is directly descended from pigs brought by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. A herd of them has lived wild on the island of Ossabaw, off the coast of Georgia, isolated from other varieties of pig, its gene pool intact. It is similar in flavor and cooking characteristics to the Senese pig of Tuscany — lean, slow-growing, with fat that melts at low temperatures. We met Oliviero Colmignoli (Olli), the prosciutto-maker who uses this amazing animal at the Fancy Food show in San Francisco last month. He promised us a prosciutto for this year’s hog dinners, even though it won’t be available in stores or online for a few months. It was the talk of the show, and is extraordinary.

The Olli Salumeria in Virginia, which has created this magnificent prociutto from an Ossabaw hog, also has access to the Mangolitsa hog, a Hungarian variety that was near extinction until recently. It has an unusually high percentage of fat with great flavor, thus making superlative lardo and guanciale. We’ll offer both.

And, not to be out done, Herb Eckhouse is providing us a special “green label” prociutto from La Cuercia his company in Iowa. This organic prosciutto is from an acorn-fed, Jude Becker raised Berkshire hog and has been aged 20 months. Jeffrey Steingarten calls it “the best prosciutto imported or domestic you can get.”

We regret going fashionable on you, but these pigs are really good.