I've been itching to do a batch of smoked cheese for some time, and yesterday I was in Sam's club, and since some shredded sharp cheddar was on my list (so we could make some cheese bread in the old bread maker) I found myself looking at the cheese there.
When I saw the large blocks of various cheeses, I decided that I should get some and finally do some cheese smoking. The weather was cool, and forecast to remain cool all night, so the time was right.
(You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger version).
I ended up buying this:
The top two were 2 lb blocks and the bottom one was a 5 pounder.
Perhaps I should have used some apple, but since the AMNPS already had some leftover Pitmaster's Choice in it, I nuked a bit more of that, and loaded it in from the opposite end of the AMNPS so it'd burn up towards what was left over from the last smoke. Yep. Feeling lazy!!!
I got it started with a small propane torch.
I let it burn for a while as I was cutting up the cheese and placing it on the racks.
When I went back out, it was still burning, so I blew it out and it looked to be started well enough.
I took the loading hopper thing all the way out of the MES 40 to allow for good airflow. The top vent was also left all the way open.
With all of the cheese cut up into sticks about the size of a 1/4# stick of butter, it fit fairly neatly onto two of the trays.
I had my usual drip catcher foil on the bottom rack and a smoke routing deflector pan laying on the top rack to force the smoke to run up over things as evenly as possible. The paper clips hanging from the top rack are left over from hanging some skewers there when I did some jerky a while back.
Here's what I hope/expect the smoke route to be with these things in place. The smoke comes up from the AMNPS, hopefully encircles the two middle trays fairly evenly, then gets deflected over to the left to get around the foil pan covering the right 3/4s of the top rack before finally going over to the right back to get up out of the exhaust vent. The smoke always looks to be evenly distributed when I look in through the window or open the unit up, so I think it all works the way I want. Doing this monopolizes the top and bottom racks, but for smaller smokes, the two racks in the middle often have sufficient space.
A loaf of cheese bread fresh from the bread-maker. That stuff is fantastic! It makes the most divine toast I've ever eaten. we put about 1 to 1.25 cups of shredded sharp cheddar into the bread maker using it's "sweet bread" mode. The aroma of this stuff when it's cooking is beyond belief!
Anyhow, I digress...
The temperature up near the top of the smoker, in the airflow path at the top rack where it has to flow up and around the deflector pan was 57 degrees after having the door closed for about 30 minutes.
I just fed the remote probe down through the top vent. You can see the TBS wafting up out of the vent. As usual, I was doing all of this in the wee hours (got the cheese in and the door closed at about 01:00. As you can see, the smoker is not turned on at all. The minimum temperature I can set if it's on is 100º F, so I can't turn the smoker on for cold smoking. That's a shame because if you could set it to a lower temperature, you could use the built-in temperature probe and the remote control to read it. Anyhow, I just used a separate temperature probe/readout gadget.
The temperature outside was perfect for cold smoking. About 36º F and zero wind (which is a rare treat around here).
This was near the end of the smoke. 66º F inside the smoker, up near the top.
Same setup with the probe. The real reason for this picture is to show how the TBS is rising completely undisturbed. This might be normal for most of you folks, but to have not even a breeze here is a rare treat!!!
This shows how much of the Pitmaster's Choice ended up burning during the course of the smoke. I gave it about 2.5 hours. Again, the ash you see camera-right in the tray is from a previous smoke. I had added the new pellets on the left side, reaching around to the leftover pellets in the middle. But in the time of this smoke, it didn't burn all the way to the old pellets. I often just wrap the AMNPS up in foil when I'm done with a smoke to snuff it out and allow me to re-use whatever pellets are left the next time. I'll have to actually dump out the ash and useable pellets next time, I guess.
The cheese still on the racks, but removed into the house to rest for a couple of hours before being vacuum sealed.
Some of the cheese already in the fridge.
A typical pack. I decided to put four of these "sticks" into each vacuum pouch because it fit pretty well with the sealing bag material I happened to have on hand.
I haven't sampled ANY of it yet! But my willpower is weakening. I've read that you want to let it mellow for at least a couple of weeks before eating any, but...