Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Smoking Cheese

The only smoked cheese I remember ever having was smoked gouda, although many cheese types are smoked. Cold-smoking cheese, salt, nuts, peppers, and a variety of other foods is easily done at home so I decided to try a few. 

Rather than experiment and possibly waste more expensive cheese or my homemade cheese, I bought some inexpensive semi-soft cheeses: longhorn, marble and a farmhouse style. I took them out of the packaging to form a harder skin so the smoke would adhere better. That takes a couple of hours or more, depending on room temps and humidity. Since it's still winter here, our humidity inside the house is fairly low thanks to electric heat. Mine sat out about 2-3 hours on the cookie rack, and were turned over several times so they would dry evenly.

I filled the smoke generator with some apple sawdust, fired it up, and put the cheese slabs on the grill. Cheese smokes better (shorter time needed) at less than one inch in thickness, and the slabs should have some room between them on the grill. Most importantly, the temp in the smoker should NEVER get above 90ºF or the cheese will melt.

The smoker shown above is the cardboard smoker I have used for other cold smoking projects I have posted about earlier. (You can see the thin smoke coming up at the top left.) The box has a "cover" of heavy-duty aluminum foil to contain the smoke, and excess smoke comes out the holes (see lower right) where the rebar supporting the grill pokes through the box. The cheese had been smoking about an hour when the photo above  was taken, and the marks on the cheese are from smoke residue on the grill that I neglected to clean off. I don't think it will harm anything, and more than half wiped off with a damp cloth anyway. Note to self: scrub the grill after each smoking session!

I took the cheese out of the smoker after 2½ hours, and put them in the refrigerator to thoroughly cool. Then I vacuum-packed each one individually. Vacuum-packing keeps the cheese moist while allowing the smoke flavor to migrate throughout the cheese rather than just on the surface. They need to be refrigerated for 7-10 days for the smoke to equalize throughout each cheese slab before eating.

I won't know if 2½ hours' smoking is enough or waaaayyy too much until I taste them in a few days.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Darius, I love this post for smoking cheese. I vacuum package a ton of cheese but have never attempted smoking it. I sell vacuum sealer bags at www.thevakshack.com and I would like to offer you a free sample pack to try out for your own use. If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at thevakshack@gmail.com and I'd be happy to send it out to you free of charge. Let me know what you think. Amanda.


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