Smoking cheese adds an extra depth of flavor that can kick any recipe up to the next level. The good news is, you can make your own cold smoked cheese with some very simple equipment, some good cheese, and a little bit of time. You won't have to pay a lot more for grocery store smoked cheese. The best way to cold smoke is on a cooler day to keep your cheese from melting. A good time to do this is when the outside temperature is below 60F so the cheese doesn't melt. This is not the same as hot smoking food. Follow along and I'll show you how to make your own smoked cheese, it's easy.
No Fancy Smoker Required
Since we want this to be cold smoked cheese, we don't need the heat of a smoker for the actual smoking process, just the smoke itself. We will be using our pellet grill electric smoker as a container to hold everything but we won't be turning it on. You can use a gas grill or charcoal grill, it really doesn't matter which outdoor grill you use, it's just acting like a "smoke chamber" or "smoker box." The grill is just used as your magical vessel to help keep the smoke contained. Our cold smoker is a pellet smoker tube filled with wood pellets.
Equipment Required-Making The Smoke
We will be using a pellet smoker tube to hold our wood pellets for this smoke. You simply fill it up with the wood pellets, light it and let it burn for a few minutes. After it's well lit, blow out the flame and let it go. It will smoke for three to five hours usually depending on the pellets you are using. This will be plenty of time for smoking cheese.
Type of Wood Pellets
I like to use milder woods like apple, cherry, maple or pecan to impart a mild smoky flavor to my smoked cheese. If you don't already have these wood pellets, a great option to start with a multi pack of several different pellets and pick your favorite from there.
Types Of Cheese To Smoke
When I make smoked cheese I like to smoke several different types of large blocks of cheese at the same time. The best cheese to smoke is the type you enjoy the most. We love to buy huge blocks of cheese at Costco. They have premium brands that cost much less than regular stores' block cheese. My personal favorite cheeses to smoke are Gouda, Gruyere, Swiss, Cheddar and Havarti, but you could branch out and get creative with many other types of cheeses. You want to go for firmer or harder cheeses or semi-hard cheeses so that they can stand up to the smoking and not end up as a puddle at the bottom of your grill if it's a little warm. You can smoke soft cheeses, but the method is a little different. That'll be a different future post.
Cold Smoke Method
You have your smoker tube, wood pellets, a grill or other place to smoke it and your cheese. Let's get started. *Note: You can not use wood chips in the smoke tube.
First thing, I slice the cheese into smaller pieces, but still keeping them as larger chunks to maximize the surface area for the smoke, typically four-inch squares or so works well. You still want to maximize the surface area that is receiving the smoke flavor. Now I place it on a wire cooling rack, this is for ease of transport and to get it on and off the smoker easily.
Fill the smoker tube with wood pellets of your choice and stand it vertically on a solid fireproof surface. With a lighter or torch light the wood pellets at the top of the tube. Keep the flame on them till they are burning fairly well. Now let it burn like this for 3 or 4 minutes to ensure it is adequately lit. Once lit, carefully lay it down horizontally on your smoker or wire rack.
For best results, put the wire rack with the cheese on the side of the grill opposite the smoker tube and close the lid. If you are using a smoker for this it should have enough ventilation already, if you are using a grill you should keep the lid cracked just a little to allow the smoke to get out of the cooking chamber.
I typically smoke it for about 2 hours but you can go 3 if you want it extra smoky.
Aging Your Smoked Cheese - This is not an option!
You didn't think you would get to eat this right away did you? If you try it now it will taste very bitter, overly smoky and honestly not very good at all. The cheese needs to age and let the smoke penetrate into the cheese.
First, you want it to dry out a bit. You may notice that your cheese looks wet, this is the oil from the cheese coming to the surface. If it is excessive you can blot them off lightly with a paper towel but it's not required. Now, put your smoked cheese on a cookie sheet and lightly cover with some parchment paper or paper towel and put it in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
If you have a vacuum sealer the next step is super easy, if not it's still fairly easy. Vacuum sealing each block of cheese individually in it's own individual vacuum bag is ideal. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, put them in zip-top bags and squeeze as much air as possible out. Place them in the refrigerator and let them sit for a minimum of 1 week, preferably 2 for the smoke to absorb and mellow out. Now it's time to enjoy your smoked cheese!
How to Use Smoked Cheese
Smoked cheese is amazing just sliced on crackers or an addition to a charcuterie board. A spicy jam or just a single pickled jalapeno slice will make your cheese appetizer board stand out. Also, try to add smoked cheddar and smoked gruyere to your next homemade batch of macaroni and cheese. It'll take your dish to the next level!