Monday, December 5, 2011

Cold smoked cheese

This weekend I was down at the coast and made a side trip over to the Tillamook Cheese factory to get some fresh cheese and squeaky cheese. What's squeaky cheese? you're probably asking. It's simply cheddar cheese curd. It's called squeaky cheese because of the texture, when you eat it, it squeaks on you teeth. Well unless of course you haven't brushed your teeth lately :-) Anyway, it's only available at the factory because it only has a shelf life of a couple days before it dries out and gets nasty. So I picked up a couple packs of curds and a few mini-loafs of my favorite flavors.

Here's what's going on the smoker...
Curds, Garlic Chili Pepper Cheddar and Garlic White Cheddar.Sorry about the mini-loafs being cut, I just couldn't wait to get home and had to sample them on the road.

I've had an A-Maze-N smoker for a while now, and this seemed like a great time to try it. If you haven't seen an A-Maze-N smoker before, it's a cold smoke generator that is built like a maze and uses wood "dust" to generate up to 10 hours of cold smoke. I haven't had a chance to use mine yet, as I said, so this is my trial run on it.

I chose pecan dust for this trial and filled up 3 of the 5 channels will dust, since I figured I'd only smoke this for about 2 hours and didn't need a full load. The fourth channel is just spillover and not full.

I loaded it up and got a nice cherry going with my butane torch. Once that was done I loaded up the cheese and a handful of curds onto my modified splatter shield that I use to smoke things that are too small to fit on the smoker grates.

Into the smoker they go....

This is being done in my Bandera smoker, and I think it should work pretty good as far as keeping things cold. With the A-Maze-N smoker in the side fire box, it should be able to dissipate most of the heat by the time it reaches the cheese in the top of the smoke chamber.  So far so good, it's been in for about 30 minutes and the temp is holding at 48-49 degrees, which is actually 1 degree colder than it was when I first put the temp probe in.

After 2.5 hours of smoke, here's how the cheese looked.
I sampled a piece of the squeaky cheese, and it had a nice amount of smoke. But it was really harsh, like kissing someone that's just taken a drag on a cigarette. But that wasn't unexpected. For some reason when you smoke cheese it has a really harsh smoke flavor to it, but it will mellow out if you let it age for about a week or so. I decided that these had had enough smoke and pulled them out of the smoker. In 2.5 hours I had burned just over 1/2 of one of the channels in the A-Maze-N smoker.

I wanted to save the rest of it (it'll soak up moisture really quick if left out and become unusable), so I knocked the ash and the burning wood out of the tray and I'm letting the rest sit for a bit. Once I feel comfortable that it's not smoldering anymore I'll pour it back into the zip-top bag with the rest of the wood dust.

Here's the finished product.

From here, it got sealed up in the vacuum sealer and will sit in the fridge for a week to mellow out. I can't wait to try it.

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