Oscar’s Smokehouse is an Adirondack destination

Three-generation family business has grown for 72 years
Oscars Adirondack Smokehouse manager Jerald "Joq" Quintal at deli counter in front of portraits of his father and grandfather.
Oscars Adirondack Smokehouse manager Jerald "Joq" Quintal at deli counter in front of portraits of his father and grandfather.

WARRENSBURG — Tucked in the shadow of craggy Hackensack Mountain is a smoked-meat business that people know as far away as Hawaii and Alaska, and even internationally.

Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse — just “Oscar’s” to its many loyal fans — has been famed for its bacon and other savory smoked meat and cheese products for decades, having grown far beyond what Oscar and Edith Quintal could have imagined when they moved their small Glens Falls butcher shop to Warrensburg in 1946.

Today — after the trauma of rebuilding and modernizing in the wake of a devastating Labor Day weekend fire in 2009 — Oscar’s is selling more meats and other items than ever before, and is a major presence in this southern Adirondack town, just off Northway exit 23.

“We have mail-order customers in every state,” said Jerald “Joq” Quintal, Oscar’s grandson and the general manager of the business. “We have people drive up from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”

People also walk through the door of the expansive showroom on Raymond Lane seven days a week, but internet and phone mail orders are a huge part of the business, and it doesn’t hurt that television host Rachel Ray — a Lake George native — will drop a good word from time to time.

“Rachel Ray promotes us a lot on her show, and every time she does that it gives us a shot (of business),” Quintal said in late February.

As the third generation in the business, Quintal, 48, studied business at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland, Vermont, but never had any doubt he’d come back to run the smokehouse. Today, he manages it for his parents, Jerald and Kathleen, who spend winters in Florida.

The showroom, with its long glass meat display counters and voluminous line of local or New York state cheeses, sauces, condiments and snacks, is the front half of a compact smoking and packing operation that produces between two and five tons of bacon alone each week, depending on the time of year, as well as other meat products.

“The summer is huge for us, the holidays are huge, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Quintal said. “This time of year is slower, but if Gore Mountain is busy, we’ll get a lot of skiers coming in.”

The current 9,000-square-foot store was built in 2010, and is more than twice as large as the store destroyed in the 2009 fire that left local bacon fans with tears in their eyes. The smoking process today is highly automated, though 19 people work at the business, either providing customer service or processing and packing the meats and cheeses.

“The only way to keep up with demand is technology,” Quintal said. “If they had had the demand back then that we have now, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up. We get a more high-quality, consistent product.”

Meat and cheese is smoked five days a week, under the daily supervision of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors.

As raw meat shipments arrive, usually from the Midwest or Canada, a 50-needle injection machine infuses the meat with a curing solution of salt, sugar, honey powder and sodium nitrate, after which it goes into a vacuum tumbler for about 45 minutes to distribute the brine. Oscar, his grandson said, would have injected the meat one needle at a time, and left the meat to sit for five to seven days.

From the tumbler, meat goes into either a one-ton or a half-ton stainless steel smoker for anywhere from eight hours to 20 hours, at temperatures of around 144 degrees for pork and 165 for chicken. Where earlier generations used logs and later wood chips, the process today uses hickory or applewood pellets, which are fed into the smoker’s furnace automatically. “They’re more efficient, they burn better and you get a heartier smoke,” Quintal said.

A third, smaller smoker uses lower temperatures, and is for smoking items like cheeses that could melt at higher temperatures.

After the smoker, bacon is trimmed and sliced, and is vacuum-packed, if it is going to be shipped. Oscar’s bacon is routinely cut thicker than commercial bacons, and sometimes cut in even-thicker slabs that can be grilled. The trimmed bacon ends are donated to Warren County soup kitchens — about 5,000 lbs. per year.

“Everything is higher-quality, and then we add our own sear to it,” Quintal said.

In addition to its legendary bacon, Oscar’s does other meats like chicken, beef brisket, sausage, ham turkey and duck breast, as well as a variety of cheeses and cheese spreads.

Oscar’s products aren’t sold in most supermarkets, but in the Capital Region they can be bought at the Niskayuna Co-op, Healthy Living Market in Wilton, and as Lakeside Farms in Ballston Lake, a landmark destination that is only open from mid-April through December.

Oscar’s retail store is open seven days per week, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., though it closes earlier on some days in the winter. The website is https://oscarsadksmokehouse.com.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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