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James Martin

Andrew Zimmern, Iowa, and Swabian-Hall Swine

By February 27, 2013

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I am a fan of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods, if only because what's bizarre to my countrymen is good eats practically everywhere else. In any case, on his last show, Andrew took us on a culinary quest for great food in Iowa--where, quite frankly I thought his quest for good and quite possibly odd eats would be stretching things just a bit.

But wow. Just wow. In fact, one of the Iowa stories comes right out of a place in Germany  I'm quite fond of: Schwabisch Hall. It seems Carl Blake, once an Apple evangelist, got it into his mind to raise hogs. Not just any hogs, but really good to eat hogs. He found the best European pig in Europe was the Swabian Hall from Germany.

"It's protected by the European Union, and the Germans won't let that pig come to the United States," Blake said. "I read that the Swabian Hall was created by King Wilhelm in 1821 in Germany. He mated the Meishan from China with the Russian Wild Boar, indigenous to Germany, to obtain the perfect balance of fat and meat. In 1829 the Swabian Hall was judged the best at the World's Fair. The pig won the World's Fair three more times. I figured if the pig was that good, I'd try to recreate it." ~ Blake building new swine breed with Iowa Swabian Halls.

And he did, and Andrew Zimmern liked it. A lot.So do great chefs.

Breeding pigs for dark meat and more fat (and way more flavor) isn't done much in Iowa or anywhere else in the US any more.

So now Iowa has a version of Italian Prosciutto (La Quercia), German tasty pork, and even...wine. What is the world coming to? Will the American Midwest lead Americans toward a more sensible production of good, artisanal food and wine, just like they headed the charge toward "the other white meat" confinement raised tasteless pork? I hope so. Maybe I'll be sorry I left.

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