Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
- Joined Jun 9, 2011
A piece and slices of three-year-old smoked cheddar
“Smoked Cheese, From Go to Show”
Those of us who smoke cheese enjoy that little something extra, and smoking cheese is fun and easy to do. Hard cheeses are the easiest and with the proper equipment smoked soft cheeses can add that something spectacular to any meal.
While going to the extra effort to smoke that favorite cheese. Why not add another dimension and age your own cheese and save some really big bucks at the same time.
The youngest cheese that I smoke is a minimum of two years old, the oldest and best cheese I have ever eaten is, my 12 year old hickory smoked Limburger, sadly not much of that is left.
There is a ton of controversy when it comes to aging, smoking and preserving cheese. The following are the techniques that I have used for many years; you are welcome to glean from it what you like.
Hopefully this will encourage someone to age, smoke and preserve their own cheese.
Question: Can I age store bought cheese?
Answer: Yes, I normally will buy cheese in the cryovac package, 2 to 5 Lbs. the larger the better.
60 Lbs. Aging Cheese
Question: Will it age in the package?
Answer: Yes it will. Make sure there are no leaks that would allow liquids to escape and contaminates to enter. Waxed cheeses although will age better. A very dry cheese can age for years, while moist cheeses will simply get old.
Question: At what temperature should I store the cheese?
Answer: Store hard cheeses at temperatures between 70°F - 21°C & 35°F - 2°C. The ideal aging temp is 52°F - 11°C to 56°f - 13°C. My hard cheeses are kept at a minimum of 45°F - 7°C. The closer to 70°F - 21°C, the faster it will age. Softer cheeses should be stored in the cooler range of 50°F - 10°C to 35°F - 2°C.
Question: How long can I age my cheese?
Answer: I don’t know of any limits in time. The longest I have aged a cheese is the 12-year-old Limburger. I have read that some have aged Cheddar for 25 years and more. Cheddar’s flavor becomes increasingly sharp; its firm texture becomes more granular and crumbly with age. Cheese never stops aging. Left long enough, mild cheddar will turn into extra sharp. A semi – hard/hard cheese will never spoil as long as it is vacuum packed and refrigerated. It gets better with age also.
Ready to be Smoked
Question: How much should I smoke at one time?
Answer: Smoke according to the size of the block. I smoke cheese as we need it. Cut your blocks into sections approximately the size of a quarter pound stick of butter for better smoke penetration. A one pound block may be cut in half, while a two or five pound block will need to be sectioned for good smoke absorption.
Question: What temperature should cheese be prior to smoking?
Answer: It depends on how much smoke you want your cheese to take on. The cooler the cheese the more smoke it will take on in a time period, this is desired when smoking cream type cheese and helps in avoiding melting. If a more mild smoke is desired, allow the harder cheese to come to ambient temperature prior to smoking.
Bring it to ambient temperature in it's original packaging before cutting into desired blocks. This will avoid a skin from developing on the surface, and allow the smoke to better penetrate the cheese.
Question: At what Temperatures should I smoke?
Answer: Consider that cheese will begin to change its texture at 80°F - 27°C so; a true cold smoke will be needed. The definition of a true cold smoke is 90°F - 32°C or less. To preserve the quality of the cheese, mine is pulled from the smoker if the internal smoker temperature reaches 70°F -to 75° then, if needed, continue when the elements are cooler. The smoking time is continued from when it was pulled from the smoker. Do not smoke below 35°F - 2°C. Hard, semi-hard, soft and cream cheeses may be smoked at 55°F - 13°C.
Note: You can take the cheese on up to the melting point if you like and it may still be desirable to your taste, but the quality of the cheese will be lost.
Question: How long should I smoke the cheese?
Answer: Only experience will determine this as it really depends on your taste.
I usually will smoke the hard cheeses for two hours depending on the density of the smoke and type of wood used. The harder the cheese the more dense smoke it can take. If it is a caramel color you are looking for, a dense smoke for 5 hours may be required. Depending on the type and texture of your cheese, monitor the smoke as a lighter smoke will sometimes infuse a more desirable flavor than a heavy dense smoke will. Cream or blues will take a much shorter smoking time than the harder cheeses. Some softer cheeses may be done in half an hour.
Learn to keep good records. In your records note the type of cheese, ambient temperature, internal smoker temperature, type and amount of wood, the density of the smoke and, of course, the time, color and taste.
Ready for Smoker
Question: What woods should I use?
Answer: Hickory, apple, cherry and alder among others work very well.
Question: Okay it’s smoked. Now what?
Answer: Place in a zip type bag leaving a small opening to keep condensation from forming and allow it to set on a rack at room temperature for a day. If it is going to be consumed soon, wrap in a cling type wrap and put in fridge or store at previously discussed temperatures. It is best to let hard cheese rest at room temperature for two to three weeks to allow the smoke to permeate the cheese. Depending on the type of cheese, if it is going to be kept for a few months, coat it with olive or vegetable oil and place on a rack in a container and refrigerate. Reapply oil every two weeks. A damp paper towel may be kept in the container to provide added moisture. After slicing some for use, reapply oil. The oil will help keep mold from forming on the outside. If the cheese is going to be aged further, it is waxed and stored as usual. Of course, it can be vacuum sealed also.
Question: Can I freeze my cheese before or after smoking?
Answer: It’s my opinion that, the quality of the cheese is seriously compromised by freezing.
Question: What cheeses can be waxed?
Answer: Only the hard cheeses should be waxed, Cheddar, Swiss, Colby, etc. The less moisture you have in your cheese the better for waxing.
Question: Can I use paraffin to wax cheese?
Answer: No. Paraffin is not pliable and will crack and break in time allowing contaminates in and molds to form. Use only wax designated as cheese wax. It will remain pliable and allow your cheese to breathe which aids in aging. It will also take a much higher heat when melting which when applied, helps in preventing mold.
Question: At what temperature should I heat the wax?
Answer: Germs are killed at 180°F - 82°C. To prevent mold, heat wax to 225°F - 107°C - 240°F - 116°C or the wax manufacturer's suggested temperature. BE CAREFUL if taken too high, the waxes flash point may be reached. To prevent pinholes, apply three coats by dipping or brushing the wax on. To prevent melting the first coat of wax, apply the additional coats at a lower temp, 160°F - 71°C.
Note: 1 - Use a designated pan to melt wax in, not a good one.
2 - Suggest using a hot plate rather than a gas stove for obvious reasons.
Question: Can I use a double boiler to melt the wax?
Answer: Not for the first coating. Water boils at 212°F - 100°C at sea level and generally decreases 2°F - -17°C per 1000 ft as elevation increases. Therefore, the desirable temperatures cannot be reached.
Question: Where can I get Cheese wax?
Answer: Cheese making suppliers will have it or, it may be purchased on line.
The below cheeses are what is kept on the kitchen counter for short time use. Note the aged 4-year-old cheddar has been on the counter for three months, no mold.
Question: How is cheese properly served?
Answer: Number one rule: Do not eat cheese cold or straight from the refrigerator. The cold temperature hinders the natural flavors and fragrance of the cheese. The aromatic and complex flavors of cheese don't really begin to appear until the cheese is at room temperature.
To enjoy all the flavors and aromas of any cheese it is important that it be served at room temperature (72°) or its proximity.
Cheese is composed largely of fat. Since fat means flavor, the goal is to amplify it as much as possible. When fat molecules are cold, they contract, when they warm, they relax, allowing a greater perception of flavor.
Pull your cheese out of the refrigerator at least an hour to a hour and a half before serving. To keep your cheese from drying out, never unwrap your cheese when you bring it out of the refrigerator. If serving waxed cheese at room temperature, wait until ready to serve before removing wax or if wrapped, unwrapping.
Be careful, though, especially in the summer months, if you warm up the cheese too much, it'll start to sweat and melt in unappetizing ways. Try to keep it at or around 72°.
To cut any cheese properly—hard or soft —use a good chef's knife or a good all-purpose utility knife. To cut very soft, cheese such as chevre cleanly, use a length of stretched dental floss.
Serving cheese after the main course, prior to or in place of dessert, adds an elegant touch to casual dinners. If served before dinner, with cocktails, remember that cheeses can be filling. Serve in limited quantities and variety.
If serving more than one type of cheese, provide separate knives for each cheese. Do not overcrowd the serving tray, as guest will need room to slice the cheeses.
Question: What do I do if I find mold on my cheese?
Answer: The mold on hard or semi-soft cheeses may be washed with a scrub brush or, cut away and re-waxed or oiled.
Soft cheeses, such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta cheese, that have mold should be discarded. The same goes for any kind of cheese that's shredded, crumbled or sliced.
With these cheeses, the mold can send threads throughout the cheese. In addition, harmful bacteria, such as listeria, brucella, salmonella and E. coli, can grow along with the mold.
Mold generally can't penetrate far into hard and semisoft cheeses, such as cheddar, colby, Parmesan and Swiss. So you can cut away the moldy part and eat the rest of the cheese. Cut off at least 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) around and below the moldy spot. Be sure to keep the knife out of the mold so it doesn't contaminate other parts of the cheese.
Of course, not all molds pose a risk. In fact, some types of mold are used to make cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert and Blue's. These molds are safe to eat.
Note: Store blue-veined and other intentionally moldy cheeses away from other cheeses as the mold spores can contaminate other cheeses.
If you're not sure what type of cheese you have or what to do if it grows mold, the safe course is to discard it.
Question: Why does my cheese taste bitter right out of the smoker?
It could be as simple as applying too much smoke. It's imperative that you monitor the color and density of your smoke as there are many outside influences that can change both. Take the time that others smoke with a grain of salt, use it possibly as a guide but, not knowing the color and density of their smoke, their info is mostly useless. And they may have a bitter taste out of the smoker themselves.
Remember, regardless the smoke generator you are using, the whiter the smoke, the more unforgiving it is as shorter smoking times are required.
Many tend to over smoke their cheese making it inedible when it comes out of the smoker, thereby they vac-seal it and let it set sometimes for months before they can consume it. You don’t deliberately over smoke a chicken then let it rest for weeks before eating it, so why would you do it to cheese?
For an example as to learn how to smoke cheese that is edible right after being smoked, take a block of cheddar and cut it into bite sizes. While taking good notes, place the pieces into your smoker/product chamber and begin applying smoke. At 20 or 30-minute intervals take a taste test of one of your samples. When you get to your desired taste, pull the cheese, you are done. This can be done using many different smoke applications.
The heavier and more dense the smoke the sooner it will be done, possibly in as little as a few minutes. A lighter, thin smoke applied from a distant fire box may take hours. This is something you have to take into consideration when being advised as to how long to smoke a product without knowing the kind of smoke used.
When done, note the color of your cheese, this is what you want to shoot for in future smokes. The color of the cheese will depend on the type of smoke being used along with the wood.
Creosote = Bitter Your smoke is depositing too much creosote onto the cheese. Suggest using a different smoke delivery system such as the ones pictured below. Using an smoke generator inside a cast-iron stove which is used as a heat sink and collects most of the creosote. The smoke then travels through a 10ft section of 3 inch stove pipe to the product chamber.
An attempt was made in the following threads to demonstrate how to significantly prevent a bitter taste on a product from occurring. You will notice a great difference between placing a smoke generator inside the product chamber/smoker and placing it in an external firebox and piping the smoke to the chamber. Piping the smoke to a chamber produces a much cleaner smoke. The longer the run from the firebox to the chamber, the cleaner the smoke will be, meaning less creosote deposits. AMNPS & Smoke Daddy Myths? - Cleaning up your act - clean smoke is delicious smoke!
Now, how do we replicate the smokers of old in today’s environment? We start by using a remote firebox and pipe the smoke produced by your smoke generator of choice to the product chamber, which could be your smoker or a cardboard box, whatever you want to use. To cool the smoke as much as possible, the firebox is also being used as a heat sink, the more mass the better. The pipe used (preferably single wall stovepipe) to transport the smoke will also act as a heat sink so the longer it is, the better the results.
The above is an example using an Smoke Daddy Big Kahuna smoke generator in conjunction with a wood stove leading to a 22cf product chamber.
The above is example using a tray type pellet smoke generator inside a wood stove leading to a 22cf product chamber.
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The above example uses a tray type smoke generator inside a mailbox feeding an MES.
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The above example is using a MES cold smoke attachment feeding an MES.
Question: Can I get this type of cheese on-line?
Answer: Yes and here is a link to get you started.
Mr. T's Christmas 2015 Gift Cheese - Aged - Smoked - Waxed
03 / 27 / 2015
It took 20 hours of light white smoke to reach the desired color. Used Pitmaster pellets with AMNPS
in a remote iron stove 8 feet away. Highest temperature reached during smoke, 68.5°.
20 hours of smoke compared to non-smoked. The streaks in the cheese were caused by the
1/4 cup of whey that escaped from the aging cheese while inside the original packaging for 3.5 years.
Pie pan used for dipping.
First coat of wax applied at 240° to deter mold growth. Additional coats applied at 160°.
Info tags applied to still wet second coat.
After three coats of wax, it is now ready for further aging or until the Holidays.
Note: The cheese rested overnight before waxing. A taste test revealed a very mild non-bitter taste.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of using a remote smoke generator in order to cool and clean the
smoke prior to coming into contact with the cheese. It eliminates much if not all of any bitter taste.
2016 Christmas Gift Cheese - Aged - Smoked - Waxed - 6 and 9 year old cheese
Mr. T’s 2016 Christmas Gift Cheese - Aged – Smoked - Waxed
Included in this year’s gift cheeses are five pounds of 6-year-old Tillamook Medium Cheddar and two pounds of 9-year-old Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar.
Some left unsmoked the rest received 18 hours of a very light cob smoke before waxing. The following was the process.
The corn cob pellets used in a tray type smoke generator were a combination of whole and broken pellets. An earlier test made on fresh cheese determined the color/taste desired which took 20 hours of smoke.
6-year-old Tillamook Medium Cheddar
9 - year- old Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar
Residual liquid from each package, 7 tsp. from the 5 # of medium cheddar, 4 tsp. from the 2 # of extra sharp. Note the extra oil/fat in the whey of the extra sharp. This is a natural occurrence especially when aging cheddar cheese and nothing to be concerned over.
Six hours into the smoke, could not help the reflections.
Sixteen hours into the smoke, note the color and density of the smoke.
Cheese ready for dipping. You can see the difference between the non-smoked and smoked cheese. The cheese went directly from smoker to the waxing table.
First dip in 220° - 225° wax to kill bacteria and prevent molding. The subsequent two dips are at 160° for secure seal.
After second dip, identifiers are applied to still hot wax.
After third dip, the cheese is ready for continued aging.
Note: Test results after removing from smoker were the Medium was now Extra Sharp with a good smoke flavor. The Extra Sharp was sharp yet surprisingly mellow with a good smoke flavor. The extra sharp had to be cut carefully as it was brittle and wanted to break, it will be good used as grated or chunked cheese.
Related Threads: My Cold Smoking Options w/Q - View - Mr T's "Smoked Cheese From Go To Show" w/ Q- View
Understanding Smoke Management
My Cold Smoking Options
Listeria in soft cheese made with unpasteurized milk such as queso fresco, Feta, Brie and Camembert.
Type Aged Uses
Medium Sharp Cheddar 60 days snack, sandwich, main dish
Sharp Cheddar Nine + months appetizer or main dish
Reserve Extra Sharp 2 years gourmet side dishes
compliments smoked salmon and sauces
Vintage White Extra sharp Cheddar 2 + years companion to fruit and wine
Vintage Medium White Cheddar 100 + days well with fruit and wine
Monterey Jack topping on any dish
Pepper Jack southwest recipes, snack with crackers
Swiss burgers and soup
Colby sandwiches appetizer with crackers or bread