Author Topic: Smoking cheese with a soldering iron in a can method  (Read 2294 times)

Offline joyofcheese

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Smoking cheese with a soldering iron in a can method
« on: December 30, 2011, 09:05:44 PM »
Hey cheesemakers,

The topic of smoking cheese using a tin can and a soldering iron has been covered in this forum before:

http://cheeseforum.org/forum/index.php/topic,2238.0.html
http://cheeseforum.org/forum/index.php/topic,879.0.html

And two good general smoking articles are mentioned here:

http://cheeseforum.org/forum/index.php/topic,3206.0.html
http://cheeseforum.org/forum/index.php/topic,2238.0.html

But I didn't want to revive and old thread. A google search for cold smoke soldering iron turns up plenty of articles as well, including

http://www.smoker-cooking.com/build-a-cold-smoker.html
http://www.lastappetite.com/cold-smoker/
http://www.nibblemethis.com/2009/11/fun-with-cold-smoking-macgyver-style.html

I am researching using this method for smoking cheese for an article I am writing for Culture magazine, I would love to get feedback from the forum of what has worked for others.

From what I have found so far, I have the following guidelines. Any feedback for or against these guidelines would be appreciated!
  • Use a wood such as alder, apple, cherry, or other fruit wood for a mellower flavor. Woods like hickory or mesquite might impart too strong a flavor
  • Use wood pellets, sawdust, or small wood chips (I expect large chips may get jammed up inside the can?)
  • Smoke the cheese after you age it, not before (unless of course the cheese is not an aged cheese, such as feta or mozzarella)
  • Don't let the cheese get above 80F
  • Smoke for 1/2 hour to an hour. If the surface is discolored, there is too much smoke.
  • Wrap the cheese and refrigerate it after smoking to allow the flavor work its way through the cheese. Wait at least a day and up to a month (or longer) for the flavor to mellow.
  • While you are cold smoking cheese, if there is room available in the smoker then add other things such as nuts, kosher salt, spices, garlic cloves, spices and herb to allow them to acquire a smoke flavor as well. If you are going to set up a smoker you may as well use up all of the available space.
I am curious if anyone has any thoughts regarding the amount of air should be available to the wood as it burns. If there is not enough will you get a different sort of smoke? I suppose if there is copious air, you run the risk of the wood catching fire and creating too much heat.

Also, any thoughts about what cheese styles lend themselves to smoking?

Thanks in advance for all of your thoughts!


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Offline linuxboy

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Re: Smoking cheese with a soldering iron in a can method
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2011, 03:44:30 AM »
Hi David, great to hear about your article. My IMHOs below:

Quote
    Use a wood such as alder, apple, cherry, or other fruit wood for a mellower flavor. Woods like hickory or mesquite might impart too strong a flavor

This is in general a good rule of thumb for smoking, but as in many things, it's up to the skill of the operator. A hickory smoke done at a lower temp with more ambient space to dissipate molecules does a great job, as does smoking at 3-4 weeks, and then aging another 2-3 months to let the flavor mellow out. Have to consider in smoking the relative flavor intensity and absorption rate as well as degradation rate of flavor molecules. Also possible to use smoke as a preservative, to help with mold control.
Quote
Use wood pellets, sawdust, or small wood chips (I expect large chips may get jammed up inside the can?)

I agree. The goal of smoking on a small scale is to have even particles and even combustion and reaction rates, so chips and fines tend to work well.
Quote
Smoke the cheese after you age it, not before (unless of course the cheese is not an aged cheese, such as feta or mozzarella)

Depends on the desired flavor, but mostly, the flavor is too faint if cheese is smoked and then ages. A classic smoked cheese like idiazabal, for example, is smoked at around 90-100 days.
Quote
Don't let the cheese get above 80F

IMHO, this is too hot, can cause sweating. It could be problematic in, say, a jersey milk cheese. A better approach is to suggest to not let the vapor get above 80-90F, with a decent space between combustion source and cheese.

Quote
Smoke for 1/2 hour to an hour. If the surface is discolored, there is too much smoke.

This has to do with relative concentration of flavor molecules and temp, which contributes to absorption rate and intensity. To bring up idiazabal again, it's 60F smoke for a day or more. Best bet is experiment. Generally, low and slow is best.
Quote
Wrap the cheese and refrigerate it after smoking to allow the flavor to work its way through the cheese. Wait at least a day and up to a month (or longer) for the flavor to mellow.

Not necessarily refrigerate. Just let it stabilize. Any time cheese changes (temp, humidity, rind treatment, etc), it should stabilize before eating. And smoke doesn't really penetrate inside the paste... it tricks the senses into thinking the flavor is pervasive due to the aroma and taste of the rind. If you want smoke flavor inside the paste, best bet is to add concentrates to the milk.
Quote
While you are cold smoking cheese, if there is room available in the smoker then add other things such as nuts, kosher salt, spices, garlic cloves, spices and herb to allow them to acquire a smoke flavor as well. If you are going to set up a smoker you may as well use up all of the available space.

It's up to each person. I like to pay attention to the absorption rates of 1 thing... I make mistakes otherwise, but I'm sure most people can multitask better.

Quote
If there is not enough will you get a different sort of smoke? I suppose if there is copious air, you run the risk of the wood catching fire and creating too much heat.

Generally, if you really starve the wood of oxygen, it will pyrolize differently. It's not so much an issue in a typical setup because there's a balance between available O2 and combustion. For it to catch on fire at those temps, you'd need to force air through it, or up the oxygen concentration. Otherwise, not much risk due to the low temps.
Quote
Also, any thoughts about what cheese styles lend themselves to smoking?

Anything, really. For example, cheddar is not typically smoked, yet Redwood Hill does a nice version of it in their goat cheddar. Can also smoke for aroma only and not flavor (wrap semi-lactic buttons in tobacco leaf, for example, and then smoke... inside will not be smoke flavored but will have unique aroma). Some are easier practically... like a large provolone can hang up in the smoke chamber vs having many small buttons to handle.

for those really into kitchen toys who want a quick smoke before serving a wedge, there's also http://www.cuisinetechnology.com/the-smoking-gun.php

Oh and have a read of Bill's article if you haven't already http://www.cdr.wisc.edu/news/pdf/smoked%20cheese%20bulletin.pdf
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