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Second Cheese smoke using AMNS -Qviews

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

The outside temperatures have finally gotten *almost* reasonable -- highs in the mid 80's, lows in low 70's.  I've been itching to try another cheese smoke using my A-Maze-N smoker, so I took a chance.  It went better this time than my first one (see, I'm not too old to learn :-}} ), but still had a few problems.


I am using my MES smoker, but only as a box and a thermometer.  Not turning on its burner at all. 


I had frozen water in an orange juice carton to help cool down the smoker.  Started out with just putting the carton in the water pan on a top shelf, but part way through decided the ice needed to be out in order to do its job.  Next time I'll just freeze a block of ice in a tupperware container and put that block into the water pan.


I still had a little bit of a problem keeping the AMNS lit.  As had been recommended, I am keeping my sawdust in a plastic jar (an old Ocean Spray cranberry jar) instead of just a plastic bag.  I also nuked it in the microwave for a minute to drive out moisture -- also a recommendation from "the man" (thanks Todd).  This time I put it into a large measuring cup.  Next time, I'll put it into a larger flat dish so that it can be more spread out.  That should help getting more of the moisture out to start with.  


I think that the problem I had with rows going out and needing to be lit again had to do with humidity created by the melting ice.  Don't know what to do about that.


I did not bother tenting the AMNS since it was well removed from the cheeses.  Don't think that dripping from the cheese had any real impact on the smoker.


I think that the final result turned out well -- time will tell after it ages for two weeks.  One cheese had a meltdown -- the Colby Jack.  Little bits went through the grates and turned into a cook's treat.


As is my common practice when smoking anything, I kept a log of times and temperatures and notes.

Here it is:

Cold smoke cheese, log for 25 Aug 2010
Using Peach sawdust in AMNS, lighting both ends.

Put orange juice carton full of ice in water
pan sitting on top rack.  Put cheeses on next
rack.  Put AMNS on top of wood chip box.

Using MES temperature gauge plus a remote read
thermometer probe laying on top of cheese.
All temperatures in degrees F
Time probe MES notes
1645 72 72 ready to go
1745 83 78 took ice out of milk carton
1845 80 72
1945 73 64 opened up to peek.  Took pic.
   one row of AMNS needed relight
2100 71 62 AMNS was out, relight.  Still
   some ice left
2200 74 64 needed relight again.  Ice
   was gone, dump water.
2300 92 82 Add ice cubes
2400 68 64 
0100 90 78 ice has melted, still smoking
0130 took it out.  AMNS is still going, almost gone.

Total time almost 9 hours.


And now for the pictures:


Cheese at the start:



A map of the different sorts of cheeses.



Getting it lit



Ready to go



One hour in - remove ice from carton



three hours in -- needed one row to be lit again



all done -- almost 9 hours wall clock time



A view of the other side



all sealed up to go in frig for two week aging


post #2 of 14

Looks good I'm waiting on some cool weather to do some cheese

post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 

We have a fortunate gap in the weather here in Maryland.  Three days with highs in the low 80's and lows in the high 60's to low 70s. 


I started a second smoke this evening -- same cheeses but with wine barrel oak.  Still going as I type.  Hopefully it will be done before I go to bed in a few hours from now.

post #4 of 14

Great Job Dale!


Try filling the AMNS up to the brim next time, and use your thumb to lightly pack it down.  Just don't spill over the tops of the dividers.


From the pics, it looks like you have a MES 30".  They are "Starved For Air".  I remove the chip loader when cold smoking in my MES.  You need air/oxygen flowing thru to keep the AMNS going.  It's different when hot smoking, because the convection from the heat causes a draft thru the MES.


How'd your 2nd smoke go?


Ain't that Wine Barrel Sweet!?!?!?


Looks like Peach in the bags????




No Creosote! A-Maze-N Smokers

post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  Your response on the chip loader was one of my questions.   I'll try taking it out next time.  All three of my smokes have been with it in.


I do have an MES-30.  It is an older model -- before they dumbed it down to a half width chip tray.  Although I've had two malfunctions on the heat coil connections, I still like it.


I'm going to withhold judgment on the taste comparison of the peach, wine and bourbon until they have aged.  We did have a bit of the colby jack from the peach smoke and it was good.  Surprised me that it was colby jack that melted the most and not mozzarella. 


I have a strong suspicion that the humidity and condensation from the ice in the water tray is having an adverse effect on the sawdust.   It has more of a tendency to go out, and it sometimes burns only down the middle -- leaving unburnt sawdust on the side of the track.  I am shielding the AMNS from dripping from the water and/or cheese.

post #6 of 14

I have done a lot of cheese with my AMS and to date I have not use ice in the SmokinTex - I think Todd nailed the problem with the AMS staying lit but I have noticed that because we are using a "sealed box" so to speak that I often have to go back after 30 min or so into the smoke and relight it. I think the issue is that we may be burning up all the oxygen in the box so I have actually started to open the door about every 35 - 40 min and let some more air in during the first couple of hours then it seems to just keep going after that.   

post #7 of 14

I have a 30" MES, too.  I've only done cheese once, but when my mozz started to sag I put a piece of cheese cloth under it which seemed to work pretty well.  It sagged a little, too, but I could tape the ends of it to the grate next time to keep it tight.  I didn't have a problem with my 6" AMNS going out, but I kept opening the door to drop the temp (it was 85* outside & smoker kept rising above 100*), so it was getting plenty of oxygen.  I'll remove the loader next time as well.  Thanks, Todd -- this is a great product!  I'm in line for one of those like Bear is testing, too.

post #8 of 14

Hey Dale.....We're Waiting!!!


Did you unwrap your cheese yet?




No Creosote! A-Maze-N Smokers

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Not yet.  Has 4-7 days to go before the two weeks is up.   We're going to open the three woods with one kind of cheese for a taste test.  I'll certainly let you know how the three woods compare.

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 

Today was the day we decided to unwrap one of the cheeses for taste tests.  We chose the sharp cheddar, usually our favored flavor.  We had smoked several flavors of cheese with three flavors of sawdust over a course of three days about two weeks ago.  The woods were peach, bourbon oak barrel and wine oak barrel.


The other flavors of cheese shall remain in the frig until we have finished with the sharp cheddar.


We sliced off four moderate slices of each cheese.   We had crackers to cleanse the mouth between bites.  All three were good.  Although there were small differences, we could not really say that one type of wood stood out as better than the other two.  In fact, we think that our first smoke several weeks before using hickory sawdust had been a bit better -- but did not have any to try side by side.


It will be several weeks at least before we go through all the cheeses we have stashed -- three woods and 4-6 types of cheese each.


I've not yet ordered replacement sawdust, but when I do I shall include apple in my choices.  Apple chips have been my favorite during my smokes using the MES chip loader.


post #11 of 14



Hickory is a popular wood, but can have a "Bite" to the smoked food. Pecan is very close in flavor, but does not have that little "Bite" that Hickory seems to give.


I smoked (2) batches of BBB, (1) with Hickory and (1) with Apple.  Both came out good, but the Hickory had a noticeable difference in taste.  Personally, I lean towards Apple, Maple and Cherry.  Why not, I've got a "Ton" of it on-hand!!!





No Creosote! A-Maze-N Smokers

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks Todd.


I am begining to think that perhaps evaluating different woods is like describing wine tasting.  My palette is rather simple.  Three categories -- "I like it", "It's ok", and "not for me". 


When we bought our smoker 4+ years ago, I got several bags of wood chips.  We liked the results using  apple chips, one try with mesquite chips we did not like.  So we have stuck to the apple in almost every smoke.  I did open up a bag of pecan chips to try a hot smoke of some almonds.  That was "it's ok", but did not have as much smoke flavor as we would have liked.  So, I'm going to stick with apple and hickory sawdust -- although I've not yet tried the maple sawdust I have.


We have a large crabapple tree in our front yard.  A couple years ago, I had a tree guy take down another tree in our back yard and do a serious pruning to the crabapple, taking off some branches that were 12" in diameter.  In one of those "Ah-Ha" moments after the fact, I decided I should have asked him to catch a bunch of chips as he ground up the branches.  I could have had a bushel of chips, but did not think about it at the time for some dumb reason.  Of course, as the fox said about the grapes -- those chips would have probably been contaminated by oil and other woods on his chipper:-}}


One side effect of that large crabapple tree is that at this time of year we frequently have deer in our front yard.  I posted a picture here a while back of them in some thread.  It's probably on my profile pics.

post #13 of 14

When in doubt, You can't go wrong with Apple, Cherry or Maple.  All have a mild/sweet smoke to them.


Leave the almonds alone for a few weeks, just like your cheese and you'll like them much better.  They mellow out quite a bit.


We use them is salads and the Wife made some bars with the smoked pecans.  Very nice flavor.




No Creosote! A-Maze-N Smokers

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

The almonds didn't last that long:-}}  But we did notice that the smoke flavor came out more as time elapsed.  Using ground up salt worked nicely also.




Originally Posted by TJohnson View Post

Leave the almonds alone for a few weeks, just like your cheese and you'll like them much better.  They mellow out quite a bit.

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