I have posted about smoked cheese before. However, I decided to do a really detailed instruction and video. Here it is!
When you are smoking cheese you need cheese, a smoking chamber and a smoke generator for cold smoking.
You should choose a hard or relatively firm cheese. The cheese will be sitting on a rack in a warm chamber. Softer cheeses might fall apart, melt or stick to the rack. Some good choices:
These are just a few of the wonderful world of cheeses. Any relatively firm cheese can be tried.
The smoking chamber can be anything that will cover cheese on a rack. A lot of people use an unlit smoker or barbecue. You can put a rack on some bricks and cover it with a large terracotta planter that is lifted a bit off the ground. I have even heard of a cardboard box being used.
The trick is that the cheese has to be on a rack inside it and there must be sufficient airflow to keep your smoke generator working.
There are many types of smoke generators. Some are very fancy devices with fans that direct smoke through pipes to where you want them. I use two types and have written reviews on both:
Both work by filling them with wood pellets, igniting one end and letting the pellets slowly smolder, generating smoke. It is important you do not use home heating pellets. These have binders and softwoods that will give an off taste. You must use hardwood pellets that are made for barbecuing or pellet smokers.
The pellet smoker generates less smoke but also gives off less heat. You need to smoke the cheese for 3 to 4 hours but it does not heat up your smoke chamber a lot.
The tube smoke generator generates more smoke but does heat up the chamber by several degrees. It only takes 2 to 3 hours to smoke your cheese.
You must consider the temperature in the smoking chamber before you smoke. I like to keep it below 70 F but up to 80 F is OK. Above that, your cheese could melt or get an poor texture. If it is a hot day, it isn’t a good day to make cheese.
I find the pellet smoker increases the temperature of a medium barbecue by about 5 degrees. The tube smoker increases the temperature by about 12 degrees. These are only estimates and will vary greatly with the size and airflow of your chamber.
You can mediate the heat in your chamber somewhat by putting a large block of ice in a pan.
As far as minimum temperatures, you can smoke cheese at lower temperatures as long as there is no risk of freezing.
I really recommend a remote thermometer probe with an alarm but keeping an eye on your cheese should be enough.
If your cheese comes in large blocks, cut it into chunks that you are convenient for your regular use.
Fill your smoke generator with pellets and light one end with a propane torch for 1 minute. Let the flame on the pellets die down and blow softly to reignite a flame. Keep doing this for another minute.
Arrange your cheese around the smoke generator so that the cheese is never close to the ember burning through the generator. The cheese must be spaced to allow good airflow around all blocks of cheese.
For your first cheese, smoke it to the shorter of the periods for smoking. A mildly smoked cheese is still tasty. An over-smoked cheese is not. Increase the smoking period with future batches to get it the way you like it.
For a pellet smoker, smoke for three to four hours. For a tube smoker, two to three hours.
The cheese will not taste good immediately after smoking because all the smoke is concentrated at the surface. You need to let it age for at least two weeks. Personally, I won’t eat my cheese for at least 4 weeks.
Storing the cheese to age and for later use requires you eliminate as much exposure to air as possible or you may get mold. I have wrapped my cheese in plastic wrap and then in a resealable bag but I get much better results with my vacuum sealer. It just seems to resist mold better.
If you are going to store your cheese for very extended periods, a year or more, you can buy special waxes for coating the cheese.
I love smoked cheese. It just adds a deep complexity to the creamy acid of the cheese. Give it a try.
Here is the video:
The Old Fat Guy