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Cold smoking cheese – taste testing the first batch

Posted by on Tuesday 3 August 2010 in cooking, smoking | 30 comments

My last post about cold smoking cheese left off when the cheese was coming out of the smoker. All the guides I read recommended leaving it to rest for the flavours to develop – at an absolute minimum overnight but ideally a least a week. So I wrapped up the smokey sticks in parchment paper, labelled them and into the fridge they went.

Occasionally, we’d take the packages out & sniff them but it was only today that we got to open them & dig in.

Let’s first remember what the cheeses looked like to start with. There was a Double Gloucester (the orange one), and two cheddars (a mature and extra mature).

And after the smoking, they looked like this. The left most batch was in for 3hours, the middle for 6hours and the right batch for 9.5hours. Check out the colour difference!

And so to the taste test…

We started with the 3hours stuff as you’d expect. When we cut into it, the outside layer was clearly discoloured for 1mm or so and a little drier than normal. This held most of the flavour – the inner part was only subtly smokey. Even so, it was enough to overwhelm the Double Gloucester’s delicate flavour – the cheddars still tasted distinctly cheddary in addition to the smokey rind.

After a palate cleansing cream cracker, we moved onto the 6hour batch. The surface discolouration is obviously more pronounced on these and it permeated 2-3mm into the cheese. As you’d expect, it was a stronger smoked flavour and the outer layer was tougher – it needed some actual tooth pressure to get through the rind. By now, the cheddars were indistinguishable from each other – you could still taste the cheddariness but not the difference between the mature and extra mature.

Our excitement building while we ate another sorbet-substitute cracker, we rushed onto the 9hour batch. Awesome surface colour! It wasn’t until we cut them open that we could tell which was started life as a red cheese. The discolouration seeped into the cheese by a good 4mm (which is a considerable distance on these blocks which were only 20mm tall/wide) and the outside layer was rind-like & chewy. John thought the smokiness of these lessened the harshness you often get with cheap mature cheddar (which this was).

All in all, it was definitely a successful effort and we’ll try it again. The Cold Smoke Generator didn’t need any tending – it just kept smouldering away until all that was left was a little bit of blackened dust. A great bit of kit.

I couldn’t eat a lot of the 9hours stuff – even the 6hours stuff would be almost too strong for a sandwich – but they were nice as little pieces, as part of a cheese board. I imagine they’d also be good for adding flavour to cooking, where you don’t want to use a lot of cheese (if such a time exists).

Things to try experimenting with next time:

  • John thought it would be interesting to have bigger blocks of cheese in for longer – to see what that did to the outer layer/inside – so we’ll try that. I suspect it’s a longer smoking that gets Martin from Old Sleningford Farm his parmesan-like cheddar – our 9hr cheddar was getting there in terms of dry texture but wasn’t quite there.
  • Different wood. Oak was nice but others – hickory, apple, cherry – were recommended by the smoking guides, so it’ll be interesting to see the difference.
  • A bigger chimney hole. Apparently airflow is can impact it a lot and while there was a constant flow of smoke from my chimney hole (…not a euphemism), I think it could have been more efficient – just something else to experiment with.
  • Chillis. Changing the topic away from cheese, I didn’t mention chillis last time – I forgot that you could smoke them and they’re not mentioned in my books either. As we discovered on Sunday that five of the bell pepper plants my dad gave me in the spring are actually chillis – in addition to the dozen? chilli plants I grew myself – I’m sure we’ll have plenty to experiment with in a couple of months!

30 Comments

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  1. dtbroccoli

    I used to work near the smoking ovens in a commercial butchery, they used beech chips sometimes, but normally it was hickory so that smoked bacon taste you get is normally from hickory if it is cheap bacon you are buying.

    Not sure if that helps though.

    Interesting post though, I like it.

  2. louisa

    That’s really interesting, thanks — I’ll get some hickory and try smoking both bacon & cheese with it. Mmm, bacon and cheese.

  3. Nigel

    Mmmm good blog, I have recently purchased a Pro Q smoke generator and tried smoking some cheap mild chedder in a kettle BBQ for 3 hours over beech. I chose the mild chedder just as an experiment in making a nondescript cheese much better and after a week in the refridgerator wrapped in cling film did a taste test on some friends at the local pub and they were asking me where I got such nice cheese from :0). THe smoke flavour is quite subtle and goes very well with the creamy taste of the cheese.

  4. louisa

    Hi Nigel,

    Thanks for the comment. After I got back from my cheesemaking course last week, we had some artisan cheese alongside my cheap smoked cheddar – and everyone preferred the smoked stuff. It’s amazing how it can improve the experience so much!

    Also thanks for mentioning that you did it in a kettle BBQ – I had thought about that when I first started looking into smoking but then completely forgot about using one and was planning to make a custom cold smoking smokehouse – think getting a kettle BBQ would be a lot easier!

  5. Nigel

    Cheers, Cheesemaking course , ill look at that link tomorrow, sounds wonderfull. You know you could always get one of the Pro Q smokers that stack up and use that as a fairly high capacity cold smoker, might be easier to manage than a custom smokehouse. Im really considering getting one to try out very soon. Also you can hot smoke and wet smoke in those too …Going to start a cheese smoke with some whiskey barrel oak dust tomorrow …will let u know if its any good :0)

  6. Nigel

    Oh forgot to say going to put some habenero chilli flakes on top of the Pro Q Smoke generator and see if there is any flavour imparted into the cheese…I Hope so !!!

  7. louisa

    Ooh, let me know how that works out – both the whiskey oak stuff and the chilli stuff. Someone said sprinkling herbs on top imparts that flavour but I wonder if it’ll transfer spiciness too…

    I tried smoking actually chillis the other week – I don’t think I’ve written it up yet but in short, big fat fail. I think they need to be done a whole lot longer than one CSG cycle, and probably with a strong wood (I was using hickory, think they’ll need oak).

  8. Nigel

    Well, the Cheese is out of the smoker, and tried a little taste, very very smokey, and I couldnt discern any chilli but that may be due to the strength of the smoke taste masking it but there was certainly a chilli tang in teh air when smoking. Will now put the cheese away in the fridge for a few days and have a further taste as the smoke should mellow a bit. I obtained some mexican smoked chillis (mulatto, ancho and pasilla and some chipotle) They had the texture of sundried tomatoes so can only imagine they had been smoked for a very long time for the moisture to have been so low. Maybe they smoke and then sundry them.

  9. louisa

    After my failed attempt, I found a guide which suggested drying them in a dehydrator or oven after smoking so maybe that’s where I went wrong — maybe, like resting cheese, that’s where the flavours really develop. We had some of the smoked chillis fresh in an omelette a few days later and they tasted like chillis, not smoke. I will perfect it, I will!

    Am very intrigued by how the chilli smoking works out…

  10. Nigel

    Hi Again,

    Sorry not to respond earlier but spent the weekend away visiting friends.
    Well the habenero flakes produced a very chili loaded smoke that made checking the smoker slightly painful, you could feel the chili in your eyes and throat a bit.
    But suprisingly upon tasting the smoked cheese there was very little if any chili taste or sensation at all. Maybe will try with some different herbs and spices next time.

  11. louisa

    Hi Nigel, that’s really interesting – so probably not worth the pain for the outcome. I’ll probably not rush to try that then!

  12. mandy

    We just tried cold smoking with our Bradley smoker and it’s cold smoking accessory. We smoked it for 6 hours and there was No change in color..does that mean failure? We were told to then put in vacuum sealer bags and let it sit for at least a week..I sure hope we didn’t just waste 20$ worth of cheddar for nothing..we use alder and apple chips..any thoughts/ Blessings!

    • Nigel

      Hi Mandy,

      You could certainly try a tiny bit of cheese and see if it has taken on the smokey flavour. THe cheese I have done takes on a little colour but it sits very close to the cold smoking device. You will in most probabbility find it is very good. The whole idea is to flow smoke over the stuff you want to cold smoke, leting the smoke out so it doesnt condense any tars on the food.

      By keeping it wrapped for a week the smoke taste will penetrate through the cheese. I usually cut my cheese into rectangular blocks about 2 inches square at the end. If the cheese is a huge single block it can take a while for the smoke flavour to really get inti the middle. Hope this helps.

      Best Regards
      Nigel

  13. mandy

    Thank you Nigel! We did open a package last night, I forgot we had also used a inexpensive block of Mozzarella too..well I am happy to report that it was really tasty with a Triscuit! The cheddar was good as well, though I feel it needs more time to incorporate the flavor into the cheese rather than on the outside, which still had kind of a sharp/ashtray type of taste on my tongue. I am really excited at the prospect of having our own smoked cheeses! Thanks again!

    • louisa

      Hi Mandy,

      Glad you liked it!

      Nigel beat me to it (thanks Nigel!) but I was going to say that it definitely is worth letting it rest for a week – it made the smoke more mellow (not less strong, just less harsh).

      I can’t wait for the weather to get a little more consistent so I can start my smoking experiments again :)

  14. Nigel

    Sounds like you are well on the right track :0)

    I might soon think about smoking something a bit more technical like some fish fillets, maybe salmon or some white fish like salmon or haddock. These will need to be placed in a brine or salt for a day or so before smoking. Also thought might try smoking some rock salt in the smoker as well.

  15. Nigel

    Hey Loisa

    Get smoking !!!

    Best Regards

    Nigel

  16. mandy

    Tell me your thoughts on almonds..we tried them totally plain, and i was bummed, because i wanted to try onion/garlic/sea salt,..but they were my brothers stash, so his call. They came out, boring and smokey.
    If I want to do almonds, do you place them in a bag with veggie oil to coat and then the seasoning? or just the seasoning, and if so, how would it stay on the nuts? I want to try fish as well, we use the hot smoker for salmon and its awesome, but i would love some smoked lox!

  17. mandy

    PS- Nigel, tell me why fish has to be put in a brine? And how long to avoid the flesh getting too salty? :-D

  18. Nigel

    Hi Mandy,

    Well you dont have to brine anything, but the brine removes some of the moisture in the fish.

    Here is a link that should explain the whole process.

    http://www.smoker-cooking.com/coldsmokedsalmon.html

    Its all down to whether you are smoking the fish to add flavour and are going to use it sharpish or if you are going to smoke the fish to preserve it. I read somewhere that a overnight brining is enough if you are going to smoke and use right away, but for the life of me I cant remember where I saw it.

  19. louisa

    Mandy – I’ve just looked up almonds in my smoking reference book (Home Smoking and Curing by Keith Erlandson) and there was no mention of oil or seasonings. Erlandson says that many people recommend smoking them for just a couple of hours but he cold-smokes his for 10-12 hours, citing “a matter of taste”. I’ve not tried them so can’t say what I’d do.

    On the subject of brining, Erlandson recommends different strengths of brine for different fish – and different soak times. For example, with salmon, he only soaks them for 1-3hours. Again, not something I’ve tried yet though so I don’t know what I’d do – will give it a go once the weather improves :)

  20. Nigel

    Loisa,

    Please bring us some of that improved weather. Has anyone tried smoking Salt …rock salt cold smoked aparently takes on a great flavour..Mmmm now I have a plan when it stop raining. Will report back!!

    :0)

  21. mandy

    We just made AMAZING cold smoked almonds..we lightly dusted them with olive oil..in a big plastic bag..then put them on a cookie rack and dusted them with garlic salt, one batch with lemon pepper, one batch with cumin and sea salt..AMAZING. the oil just helped the spices stick to them…but didn’t soften the nuts (maybe a tiny amount, but not enough to make us frown)..So I would give that a try..and we smoked some Chipotle Cheese and Pepper Jack cheese..YUM. We also brined a filet of wild alaskan salmon for 1.5 hours then cold smoked it..oh goodness, homemade LOX!!! YAHOOOOOOOOO!!!

    • louisa

      Oh sounds like you’ve cracked the almonds Mandy – and the salmon too – great work!

      Nigel: smoking salt – interesting idea. I’m imagining having to spread it out on a baking tray or something…?

  22. Nigel

    Hi Again :0)

    Well I heard of people smoking rock salt or black pepper corns in a mesh strainer over the smoke generator. Then stick it in your pepper or salt mill and just grind it over food.

  23. Tom Tigue

    Well, I made a cold smoker out of an old mailbox, the kind that looks like a barn with a rounded top, steel, I drilled a hole at the far end from the drop-down door to accept an old water faucet as a chimney so I could adjust the smoke flow. Painted her up a nice hammered bronze. What works for me is I put a block of cheese on top of a square of ” blue ice ” – the kind we put in coolers for the beach – at the far end near the chimney, and at the door end I stick an old steel 15 oz. can, 3/4 full of chips, put a small soldering iron in there, close ‘er up and wait. Tastes jes fine.

  24. Richard

    To smoke salt, you are best buying a cheap splatter guard, used on frying pans to stop fat splashing. They cost from 99p upwards. I have one with a central handle like a pan lid which is easy to accommodate in a round smoker. Spread the sea salt out in a shallow layer across the splatter guard and the fine metal mesh allows the smoke to permeate the salt from below as well as from the top. Works a treat.

  25. Nigel

    Thanks Richard good Idea and it works, was a slightly different angle on useing a mesh strainer…would be better too. :0)
    You can just about smoke anything if you put your mind to it.

  26. Alan D Hawkins

    Just ran across your site today. I haven’t tried fish yet but I
    smoke nuts, table salt, bologna, spam(excellent), boiled eggs, etc. I use an A-Maze-N Pellet smoker and an A-Maze-N Tube smoker(pellets). I’ve got other smoke generators but the tube smoker to me is the best by far. Todd Johnson has incredible customer service and ships super fast, should one decide to try the products. I’ve used the soup can and soldering iron too. Keep up the good work. Happy smoke trails. Alan D Hawkins

  27. Brian

    Regarding brining..
    When smoking items such as fish, you must brine or risk dying of Botulism posioning. Smoking reduces oxygen content of the atnmosphere & is in a moist warm environment perfect for growing Botulism toxions. Botulism requires an oxygen starved warm moist environment to grow. Proper brining keeps it from growing on your food. You must brine to start the cure process when smoking meats especially fish. Please stay safe.

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