Who doesn’t love getting gifts that have been smoked? Smoked Cheese is one item that I find myself doing once it gets cold outside and it makes a great Christmas gift.
It’s fairly easy to prepare smoked cheese at home, but there’s a few things you need to know.
The first thing is Cold Smoking. It’s basically producing good, clean smoke with little or no heat. The last thing you want it the temperature high enough to melt the cheese. That’s also why I wait until it is cold outside to smoke cheese. Even the ambient air temp can cause your grill temperature to increase.
To produce just the right amount of cool smoke, it doesn’t take many coals. I start with 6 coals arranged in a small pile. To make it easy I place the coals in a charcoal chimney or tin can for cold smoking. Since you don’t need a large fire only one of the coals needs to be lit. I’ve used a soldering iron stuck down in the pile or simply start another small pile of coals in a separate chimney then use tongs to transfer a hot one to the cold smoking pile. The target smoker temp for cold smoking cheese is 90 degrees.
Only a small piece of wood is necessary for cold smoking. I like milder woods like sugar maple, cherry, or apple. The stronger flavors can overpower cheese very quick.
Any type of cheese can be smoked, some of my favorites are sharp cheddar, swiss, colby, and pepper jack. I use the block cheese from the super market but if you have a source for good cheese… go for it!
For the smoking process you’ll need an aluminum pan and a wire cooling rack. Unwrap the cheese and let it come to room temperature for about 15-20 minutes. Fill the aluminum pan with ice cubes and place it on the rack in your smoker. Place the wire cooling rack over the pan and then place the cheese on the rack. The ice acts as an insulator from any heat that is produced from the small fire.
Let the cheese smoke for 2 hours. I always monitor the fire to make sure it’s burning just right. Sometimes I’ll have to add another hot coal or small piece of wood about 1 hour into the process. Just keep the temperature around 90 degrees.
After two hours the cheese is fully smoked and it’s time to take it off. Let it rest of the counter for 1 hour so the outside starts to firm up a bit. And it gives it a chance to release some of the oils that are going to come off of it. Once it’s rested, wipe the oils off… And then wrap the cheese in Saran Wrap after and place it in the refrigerator. It needs to set for 3-4 days to allow the smoke time to mellow out and completely absorb into the cheese.
After aging for 3-4 days, it’s ready to eat. I also vacuum seal and store it in the refrigerator or it can be frozen.