Lack Of Colour In My Smoked Cheese & Oily Smoked Salmon

by Simon
(Stoke on Trent, UK)

Hi, I tried home smoking using the ProQ smoke generator in my Weber. A couple of questions. I did cheese, which although tasty was rather colourless, not like the smoked cheese I buy. The salmon I did according to the recipe on the site but the end result although tasty is really oily. What did I do wrong? Overall it was the lack of colour on the things I smoked that was the disappointment. I used ProQ Oak clippings. Any advice would be much appreciated. Simon

Paul's Comments:
Hi Simon,
It's good to her that you are enjoying smoking and also getting good use out of my website.

First of all, with regard to the colour of your smoked cheese. You'll never get the same colour as on a commercially manufactured smoked cheese because none of the cheeses that you buy (that I'm aware of) actually go anywhere near a smoker.
Smoke flavour (and colour) is "mixed in" to the cheese before it is processed so you're never going to achieve the same by doing it the traditional way.
That said, there are ways to help colouration:-

  1. Use light coloured processed cheese. It might sound strange but starting with a whiter cheese will give you a colouration more pleasing to the eye

  2. Prepare sticks of cheese that no bigger than 1" x 1" x 5" before you start the process

  3. Place your sticks of cheese in a cold room overnight as this slight drying process will aid colouration. Note not to blow air over the cheese as this will over-dry the cheese and potentially cause cracking

  4. When smoking ensure that there is at least a 1" gap between your sticks of cheese

  5. Use cherry wood or apple wood. These two woods seem to give a greater depth of colour

I hope that all helps.

Now to the oily smoked salmon...
There are a number of variables that could contribute

to the oily texture that you describe so it's difficult to assign one in isolation. I'll just state a few areas to take care over.

  1. Fresh farmed salmon can be very oily. To reduce the chances of this being part of the problem, use wild salmon and freeze prior to smoking. (Note that the freezing step is also good for elimination of pararsites).

  2. I included an "oiling step" to ensure that the salmon didn't dry out. Maybe with your source of salmon you can afford to eliminate this step?

  3. The wiping down with Rum is all part of the process to remove oil from the surface. Be liberal with the rum

These next two points might appear to be in conflict and they are. It just goes to show how important temperature stability and control is to the whole process.
  1. If the temperature is too cold (under 8°C / 45°F) then drying may not be as quick and colouring of the salmon might not be so dramatic

  2. If your temperature exceeds 30°C (85°C) during either the drying or the smoking steps then the natural oils in the salmon may be brought to the surface of the fish.

Thinking it through as I write it most probably is down to temperature control, you'd be amazed how much heat one of those little cold smoke generators can actually kick out. To be absolutely sure, use a digital thermometer rather than rely on the analogue dial on your Weber as these are notoriously unreliable, especially at low temperature.

The last point to make is that practice makes perfect and when you use my cold smoked salmon recipe again, take notes. If you vary anything just vary one thing at a time so you can see whether it is a change for the better or worse. By varying one thing each time allows you to keep track of cause and effect.

I hope that all helps!

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