Still Smokin': Schwab's Turns 100

Schwab's meat company has spent a century making holidays happier with hams and turkey.
by Dave Cathey Published: April 4, 2012

The Easter Bunny's annual tour is Sunday, which means a lot of you will have ham on your mind. And if you're thinking ham, there's an equally great chance Schwab & Co. will get your business.

A lot of folks consider Schwab's & Co. a member of the family, having spent countless holidays staring down a Schwab's ham or turkey at the center of the holiday table.

For 100 years, starting at the little corner building that's still a part of the operation, 1111 Linwood Blvd., the Schwab family has produced the aforementioned hams and turkeys along with assorted sausages, franks and even chili.

In the company's first century of business, Schwab's is bigger than ever both in the office and out.

“Not many families can say they've run a company for five generations,” said Schwab President Larry Schwab.

Larry and his brother Scott, who serves as CEO, each of have children who work for the family business.

They need the help as the company has secured distribution with Walmart and Sam's Club on top of relationships they already held with Love's Country Stores, Crest Foods and Braum's. And let's not forget that when you eat a hot dog at a University of Oklahoma football game or Oklahoma City Thunder basketball game, you're eating a Schwab dog.

To handle the growing demand, Schwab's is prepared to expand its operation by 18,000 square feet this fall when it breaks ground on a new storage and staging facility. And that's not all.

“We're building new smokehouses,” Larry Schwab said. “This will allow us to experiment with some new kinds of wood like pecan and use hickory wood rather than sawdust.”

But this time of year, the thing that makes us think first of Schwab's is ham. Larry says dry-curing is the key to his family business's success.

“You're buying a lot of water when you buy other hams,” he said.

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 its hams back to introduce smoke deeper into the product. Netted hams are then hung from giant carts, rolled into the smoking chamber, where they cook at 180 degrees while smoke 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 come in most every cut and size. Spiral cuts processed with honey, boneless, bone-in, ham steaks, picnic hams (smaller as they are made from the front legs) and the monsters that roasting pans fear.

Schwab, who is the founder's great-grandson, said he's a traditionalist and will be eating ham this Sunday. Outside of commemorative labels and some expansion, Schwab's main focus is to continue to serve.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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