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First serious attempt at cheese - MES 40 with AMNPS

Discussion in 'Smoked Cheese' started by sigmo, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    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.  [​IMG]

    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...
  2. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Looks great. Trust us when we say wait at least 2 weeks, longer is better. Some of the worst cheese I ever tasted and I teach Cheese production and cover all the different styles with a 70 cheese tasting class, was the Smoked cheese 2 days after the smoke. I couldn't resist and went for it. Yuk! Tasted like a chunk of Cheddar was in a house fire. I pushed all I made to the back of the refer and forgot about it. About 2 months later the Mrs. was cleaning the refer and asked what I want to do with that cheese. I was going to toss it but figured I would give it one more shot...It was delicious! Lesson learned...JJ
  3. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    I have some that is over a year old that is great. I have moved from 2 weeks to a month b4 i'll try the new batch's
  4. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thanks, guys!

    It's encouraging to read what you say.  I can see how it might be kind of nasty at first because all of the smoke is just on the outer surface of the cheese.  It probably can't penetrate easily or quickly.  Cheese does seem like pretty impermeable stuff, so it makes sense that things happen very slowly.

    I guess I'll hold off for a while before trying any, but it's going to be hard.

    I should probably shove it all to the back so I don't keep seeing it every time I open the fridge door!  [​IMG]
  5. pc farmer

    pc farmer Epic Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Make more before you run out of the first batch that way you wont run out and have to wait again.
  6. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I think that's a very good idea.  Once you've got a stockpile built up, you can work from it as you make new batches,  That would certainly help with the will power!  [​IMG]
  7. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    c farmer is correct, keep it going.  Good job keeping your temps under control.

  8. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    With the weather outside right around freezing, things seemed to work really well.

    If I end up liking cheese smoking enough, I might get a mini-fridge to set up as a cold smoker.  I saw one that was really tempting at Sam's Club the other day.  It was meant to be a beverage cooler, and had a full-sized window and lots racks meant to hold pop cans or bottles on their sides.  The chiller's evaporator was a panel type that was on the top and curved around to the back somewhat, so it didn't waste any space inside and it'd be very easy to avoid the tubes from the compressor and condenser when drilling the unit for inlet and exhaust ports.  Also, the door had a good magnetic seal.

    It really would make a great cold smoker cabinet to use when the outdoor temperatures are higher so a person could cold smoke all year 'round!
  9. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That looks great nice job.
  10. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    OK. It's been almost two weeks.  I couldn't hold out and had to try some.

    I loved it!  The center cuts are more subtle and probably more like what one wants.  And it's obvious that the longer this stuff rests, the better, more even, and mellower it'll get.  The end pieces, which obviously have more smoked surface, were a bit over the top, but again, I do like a smoky flavor, so I didn't mind them.

    I suspect things will just get more even and smooth as time goes on, but I have to say that even at this early date, it's something I really enjoyed!

    This now inspires me to do another batch so I'll have more "queued up" in the fridge so I can allow it all to age longer and longer.  The weather is supposed to get cold here on Monday.  Maybe I'll have some time to do another batch! 
  11. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Hey, everyone.

    I've now had some of that same cheese in the refrigerator since it was first made.  So it's almost three years old now!

    I'm wondering if it's safe to eat.  It was all vacuum packed as shown.  And it's still packaged that way.

    What's the upper limit for keeping this stuff before it actually goes bad, or becomes dangerous?
  12. crazymoon

    crazymoon Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    S, I would think it would be good to eat unless it is covered in mold ! I'm going to enjoy some in Nov. that will be two years old.
  13. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It looks good. No mold or anything visible through the vacuum packing.

    I guess I worry about anaerobic bacteria more than anything. I'm not sure if botulism is a concern or not. But I would like to try the cheese to see how such long aging may have improved it.

    On the other hand, you can't see or smell some of the bad stuff.

    Tabbed in.
  14. dls1

    dls1 Smoking Fanatic


    It sounds like your cheese has been properly packaged so it should be fine.

    For answers to most, if not all, of your questions regarding cheese smoking, this tutorial prepared by Mr. T should do the job,

  15. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    That is a fantastic tutorial.  It's actually what got me started smoking cheese back then!

    I may get brave and try some of this ultra-aged smoked cheese.  If it just gets better with time, it should be tasty!

  16. graniteman

    graniteman Smoke Blower

    Nice job, great pics
  17. graniteman

    graniteman Smoke Blower

    How did it last that long, mine never does.
  18. sigmo

    sigmo Smoking Fanatic ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    It sort of got hidden under some other goodies in one of those drawers in the fridge. I found it when cleaning things out. There is also a lot of unsmoked cheese in its factory packages that is probably just great since it's been aging in there the whole time, too.

    I need to break some out and give it a try.

    Tabbed in.