Oklahomans love their ham, and Schwab's Meat Co. has been turning out hams and dozens of other products for almost a century. Founder of this Oklahoma company was George Schwab, who brought his pork-curing knowledge from Germany. The company has been using that original dry-cure method since its doors opened 99 years ago.
Visit the Schwab facility on the northwest corner of Linwood and Western and you will find descendants of the founder at work in various capacities. Larry Schwab is the president, and his brother Scott serves as CEO. These fourth-generation Schwabs have already brought in the next generation, as Larry's daughters and nephews work in the facility.
“Not many families can say they've run a company for five generations,” Larry Schwab said.
Schwab said what makes their hams so different is their dry-curing method as opposed to other process that inject water into the ham. A whole Schwab ham comes in a netted bag that serves it throughout processing. The bag is removed to finish the ham at home.
Schwab trims back the hams to expose the meat during the smoking process. The hams are hung from giant carts, rolled into the smoking chamber where they cook at 180 degrees while smoke from white hickory permeates the hams. The hams are removed once they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which can take 12 hours at low heat.
Schwab hams in most every cut and size can be found throughout the region. Spiral cuts processed with Oklahoma honey, boneless, bone-in, ham steaks, picnic hams (smaller as they are made from the front legs) and those incredible whole hams that barely fit most roasting pans round out the Schwab ham offerings.
My family had ham every New Year's and Easter. Mother baked the whole or picnic ham in the final stages with pineapple during the last 30 minutes in the oven. Canned pineapple rings with all their juice mingled with ham drippings, forming a simple finish to an already beautifully seasoned ham. The hams had to be Schwab's, as those were the best every time.
I try to have a whole ham around through the Christmas holidays. Redeye gravy at my house amounts to coating the ham with a paste made from red wine and brown sugar. Additional wine is then added to the pan drippings to make a wonderful sauce. I've always cooked the hams for about four hours at 325 degrees under a loose foil tent.
I couldn't wait to ask Larry Schwab if working with ham all day long meant his family might feast on another meat at Easter.
“I'm traditional about that. We have ham for Easter,” he said.
Schwab said they cook ham slowly at 300 degrees for five or six hours under a loose foil tent, adding a little water to the pan every hour or so, which compelled me to change my roasting temperature. There was no glaze — just that perfectly smoked cure of the ham to dazzle the senses and stir the appetites during the final stages of cooking.
At five hours, I mined a little taste from under the side of the ham. The result exceeded my expectations. I trimmed more fat from the ham leaving 1/8- to ¼-inch coat over the surface, then made diagonal slashes to form little diamond-shaped squares over the ham outside the skin.
Oklahoma-made Peach Crest Farms Peach Jam mixed with an Oklahoma white wine, Oklahoma mustard and brown sugar made the perfect coating. I spooned it over the ham for a final 45-minute finish in the oven. It was one of the prettiest hams I have ever baked. I made a lovely sauce from the remaining wine and glaze-infused pan drippings. What a great taste of Oklahoma.
I began thinking of all the combinations of Oklahoma produced jams, jellies and wines that could join with the unique taste of Schwab hams. There are amazing possibilities for serving up Oklahoma ham with Oklahoma flavor and style.
As generations of your family gather for the coming holiday, I hope you get a chance to enjoy some of this wonderful Oklahoma ham from the Schwab family.