Holiday meals made easy

April 3, 2009 The thought of roasting a whole ham or a whole brisket can be daunting. Then there's the issue of slicing, which presents its own set of challenges. Throw in the variable of timing everything so that it comes out right, and you're probably like me: just go pick one up. We found a pair of sources where slow-smoking ham and brisket is all part of a day's work, making your holiday entertaining that much easier.

The bears are out in force this week. Even though it's a seasonal business, the Honey Bear Ham Company has been going strong for more than twenty years. They sell the hams from their West Town storefront, but they're smoked downstate, in the family's 100 year-old smoker.

"It was built in 1906 and we smoke naturally for 22 hours. We never inject them with artificial smoke flavor or all that extra cure. So they're very low in salt preservatives," said Julie Connell of the Honey Bear Ham Company.

Just pick up either an eight or sixteen-pound ham.. take it home, and then take it out of the fridge about 45 min. before serving. No heating necessary. The fact that they're sliced and glazed makes them even more enjoyable.

"When we get them here, we spiral slice 'em and then we glaze 'em and sugar and spice and everything nice," said Connell.

Up in Old Irving Park, Smoque Barbeque truly lives up to its name. During Passover, they sell a number of whole briskets, which take nearly a full day to make.

"We do it over low and slow over hardwood. So our briskets are smoked for about 14-15 hours, at a very low temperature to get them moist and juicy and tender; that's hard to achieve at home in an oven," said Barry Sorkin of Smoque BBQ.

The briskets are first hand-trimmed, then immersed in a dry rub. Each one is gingerly placed into a large smoker, where it will rotate, cooking slowly, all night long. When they're done, the dry rub has turned black, but check out the master slicer: the inside is moist, tender and juicy. Sauce is fine, but seriously, it's not even necessary. Just be sure you have it sliced, unless you know how to do it yourself.

"If people are knowledgeable and know how to correctly slice brisket, they're actually are much better if you take them home whole and slice them yourself; but we are happy to do it...because it is a little tricky," Sorkin said.

Another source for whole smoked briskets is wishbone, which has two locations in the city and one in berwyn. Prices are usually by the pound, and you should definitely call ahead to reserve either your ham or brisket.

Honey Bear Ham
1160 W. Grand Ave.
* ham off the bone by the pound; you don't have to buy a whole or half ham

3800 N. Pulaski Rd.

Wishbone (three locations)
$11/lb - includes horseradish sauce, BBQ sauce and rolls

1001 W. Washington Blvd.

3300 N. Lincoln Ave.

6611 W. Roosevelt Rd.

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