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Smoked cheese – my first attempt at cold smoking

Posted by on Sunday 25 July 2010 in cooking, eating, smoking | 3 comments

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of curing & smoking food for a while but I only started to seriously consider doing it when Martin from Old Sleningford Farm mentioned a) how cheap cheddar can be transformed by a little time in a smoker and b) how easy it is to build a garden smokehouse.

About a month ago, I decided it would be a perfect project for this year’s birthday new fun craft/experience/skill and started reading into it in more detail. It’s a lot easier to build a hot smoker and there were a number of smokers-cum-bbqs on eBay – but that wouldn’t let me do cheese, and I like smoked cheese a lot. I thought I’d have to build a smoker with an external firebox, feeding the cooling smoke into the chamber via piping – and the thought of that overwhelmed me a little. Then by complete chance, I stumbled upon the ProQ Cold Smoke Generator.

The ProQ Cold Smoke Generator was only developed last year but it’s a wonderful combination of simplicity & genius. Obviously I’m new to smoking so I can’t compare it to other methods – but every other method I’ve read about was way more complicated that this. It’s a carefully (but not overly) engineered spiral of metal mesh. It doesn’t use gas or electricity – just a few seconds of a tealight to get started, then the sawdust smoulders away of its own accord for up to 10hrs, without any further intervention, stoking or encouragement. I think what finally won me over though was the instructions on the ProQ/Mac’s BBQ site showing how, with the CSG, you could make a smokehouse from a cardboard box, two bits of dowel, an old baking tray and some cooling racks. Recycling and frugal!

I started the day yesterday making a box smoker vaguely according to that how-to. I say “vaguely” because I taped all the box’s flaps up for strength, then needed to add an access flap (to stop smoke seeping out the sides of the flap, I extended the size of the flap by a couple of inches on each side by sticking extra cardboard on top of it). Because it threatened to rain all day, I ended up setting it up in the greenhouse – it wasn’t any warmer in there than outside and it would keep the cardboard dry. Not really ideal though because it would have got hotter if the sun had come out again – will have to find a better spot for next time.

I smoked three lots of cheese but even though all the smoking books/guides say to use the best materials you can get, the cheese was nothing particularly special as I wanted to try out Martin’s “cheap cheddar made great” claim. I got two cheddars – one more mature than the other – and a much milder Double Gloucester, to see what would happen to that. I sliced them all into 2cmx2cm blocks as recommended in all the guides – to get more smoke penetration.

I also wanted to test different amounts of time in the smoker. At least three guides/forums I’ve read say “everyone says smoke cheese for 2-3 hours, I say 4-6, but it’s just a matter of personal taste” so I decided to try a few different timings to see what our “personal taste” is. I took one batch – one piece of each cheese – out after 3 hours, another after 6 and left the last three pieces in for the full 10hrs of smoke provided by the CSG. When each batch came out, I patted off the surface moisture, wrapped them in parchment paper and put them in the fridge. The guides all recommended leaving them to rest for at least overnight but preferably a week, to let the flavour develop properly. So that’s why I’ve not gone into the tasting side of thing here – that’ll come in another post later in the week.

Finally, the other variable was which wood to use. I got a selection pack of sawdust from Mac’s BBQs and Mac’s site recommends apple, cherry or hickory for cheese. I fancied trying oak though because I’ve had a number of nice oak-smoked cheeses recently – so I used that. It might be a bit too strong for these cheese though – we’ll see in a week!

All in all though, this stage has been lots of fun – the CSG made it easy and trouble-free. I got on with a lot of other stuff during the afternoon without having to tend/worry about the smoking. I definitely want to try smoking more things – I think it would be interesting to try fish or meat next.


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  1. Peter Giblin

    Smoking some cheese using the ProQ gadget and cardboard box as you describe. Thanks for the photos, v. helpful. I tried it last weekend and think I overdid the cheese, it was pretty strong but I reckon would go well with a good ale. Also did some beef jerky but drying it off was a bit of a chore using a case fan in old Belling oven, it turned out really good though.
    Just taken some cheese out at four hours. I’ll leave the rest for another two.
    Also smoking some cashews and nuts.

  2. Edward

    I smoked some cheap cheddar and jalopeno cheese bricks. The result smells and tastes like the heavy ashtray taste. I used apple wood 2l2 oz So disappointed. Is this because I let too much smoke around it or too much smoke. I see the heavy ashtray taste in other blogs.


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