How To Smoke Cheese
by Bill Atkinson
I'm looking into smoking some cheeses (cold smoking) and was wondering if you had any helpful hints or suggestions. I have both a cheddar and Monterrey Jack (young cheddar) that I'd like to try and would love any advise on making the first attempt more successful.
Thanks in advance.
You've got the first bit absolutely right and that's to start with a processed cheese. Smoked cheese in an acquired taste and if you have a good quality tasty cheese then it's best left as nature (or the manufacturer) intended.
Natural cheese contains a lot of butterfat and this readily absorbs a lot of the "nasties" in smoke. Processed cheese however is made by finely grinding natural cheese with emulsifiers, conditioners, (sometimes colorings and preservatives) and flavorings. The cheese is then melted and formed into blocks. All these additives bind with the butterfat leaving the bad smoke odor molecules nowhere to attach and so smoked processed cheese doesn't taste bad.
So point number one is start with processed cheese and preferably one that is light in color because the smoking process adds a golden color and you want this to be visible at the end of the job.
Incidentally, don't expect your smoked cheese to taste exactly like one that you buy in the shops because most mass produced smoked cheese hasn't been anywhere near a smoker. Most likely it will have just been dipped in liquid smoke.
Get some loosely woven cotton cloths to wrap the cheese up in, wash them first to remove any to remove any starches or conditioners. I use those towels that Mom's use with new born babies.
The ideas here is four fold:-
- The cloth prevents the cheese from being stained by your smoker food rack.
- The cloth will absorb moisture from the cheese.
- Smoke can still pass through.
- The cloth will also act as a filter for soot specs.
Let your cheese come up to room temperature (this will take 6-8 hours) and then cut your cheese into sticks about 1" x 1" x 6".
Place the cotton material on the food rack of your smoker and then place the cheese sticks on this. Now leave the cheese unventilated to dry for about 12 hours - this will aid the coloration process.
Next (as you say) you need to set your smoker up for cold smoking ie. less than 80°F (27°C). This will probably require a remote smoke generator or using an electrical hotplate as I do in my homemade smoker design.
Smoke your cheese for three hours at a temperature less than 80°F (27°C) and at the end of the three hours take the rack out and blot any "sweat" off the cheese with some kitchen towel.
Return the cheese to the smoker for a further three hours and that's the job done. If there are any soot specks on the cheese, remove these with a knife and then you can refrigerate in plastic bags. Smoked cheese will keep this way in the refrigerator for at least a month because the smoke deposits act as a natural fungicide.
So that's how to smoke cheese......I hope you try it and I hope that you like it!
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