Former poultry farmer Aaron Silverman tasted such subtleties when he attended a prosciutto tasting at the Slow Food Expo in Turin, Italy, in 2004. Each of the 30 varieties of salt-cured ham he sampled had a distinct flavor profile dictated by the pig’s diet. The experience led him—along with former Clarklewis chef Morgan Brownlow—to found Tails and Trotters, a pork-to-fork business that raises hogs for wholesale prosciutto production. Inspired by the revered Iberian pigs in Spain, who live among oaks and feast chiefly on acorns, Silverman and Brownlow are collaborating with local farmers to raise hogs that spend the last 90 days of their lives on a diet consisting entirely of Oregon hazelnuts. The result: pork that has a distinctive, nutty flavor reflective of the pig’s oil-rich diet and that is marbled with fat throughout. Local gastronomes will have to wait until Tails and Trotters receives a nod from the USDA before they can buy its prosciutto in stores, but the pork is available at the Eastbank Farmers Market on Thursdays, and the company already supplies pigs to such local restaurants as Laurelhurst Market, the Urban Farmer at the Nines Hotel, and Alba Osteria.
Every part of the pig is edible, except for the oink.
Other Portland chefs are striking out for new horizons in charcuterie as well. In October, Clyde Common owner Nate Tilden, chef Jason Barwikowski, and former Castagna chef Elias Cairo (along with five other co-owners) will open Olympic Provisions, a 30-seat wine bar and restaurant. When completed, it will showcase chorizo, prosciutto, coppa, mortadella, and other specialty meats. At Nostrana, Cathy Whims is producing the finest American prosciutto I’ve ever tasted, and Paley’s Place will introduce a new prosciutto by Christmas.
Like the Oregon winemakers who eschewed the replication of old-world pinots in favor of a wine that reflects the region, our chefs and farmers are working to prove that pigs, too, can taste of the place.