I visited Provvista's Open House yesterday, and helped Rufus Brown of Johnston County Hams explain to people why the cured Mangalitsa products are so great.
Provvista's vendors set up tables and sampled their produts to the guests. Provvista staff helped to make it possible for the vendors to sample their stuff and sell people on the products - by providing the space, cleaning up and facilitating things in ways I didn't even notice.
Provvista had had a private tasting of Rufus's hams before they event, so knowing how great the hams are, they sent may people by our table to try the hams, to make sure they experienced it.
There were a lot of hams from Italy and Spain there. It was neat to have them all in one place, so that I could try them. From Spain, there were Iberico and serrano hams.
The Mangalitsa hams had the meatiest flavor of all the hams I tried. As expected, the Iberico and Mangalitsa tasted the most like each other; they were in their own category. The Italian stuff was quite good, but not very memorable. The Italians do get the fat right, which I appreciate - but their meat-type of genetics strictly limit how flavorful their hams can taste.
Comparing the Iberico and Mangalitsa, the Mangalitsa tasted meatier.* One of Rufus's hams (from some sows we killed in January) was absolutely amazing. The fat was white and tasted a bit nutty. The meat was dark red and super-marbled and ridiculously meaty tasting. It was clearly the best ham there. In addition to being the best readily available hams, the hams are a bargain compared to the imported Spanish stuff (the only competition).
Eating that ham, I felt proud to have helped make it happen. Obviously, had I not founded Wooly Pigs (Heath Putnam Farms), it wouldn't be possible to eat this stuff right now. You wouldn't be able to order it online.
Some confirmation of the greatness of Rufus's Mangalitsa ham came later, when some Italians came by. They explained that they live in Italy and have imported Spanish hams (presumably Iberico) into Italy. They looked at the ham (one of Rufus's best) and asked where it came from. They were surprised when we explained the pigs were raised in the USA, and that the hams was made in North Carolina. They sniffed it for a long time and finally tried it - and said nothing. I've seen Italians do this before with other excellent product, so I wasn't surprised. Then they asked for contact information, so they could buy some later. After they left, Rufus and I laughed about that - they didn't want to say it was really great, but they really wanted contact info, so they might potentially buy.
I preferred Rufus's 9-month Mangalitsa ham to some 18-month serrano's from Spain. The Spanish stuff just didn't have the flavor of the Mangalitsa. That's logical: you could "age" some Kraft Singles and they'd still taste like Kraft Singles. Aging them won't automatically make them taste like a great cheese. Anyway, I think it is great that a 9-month Mangalitsa ham can taste so great - but I already knew that from the Herbfarm's quick hams.
* Spain produces some great pigs, that approach the Mangalitsa in quality. Sadly, no hams from those pigs were in attendance; I suspect you'd have to go to Spain to get those.