Smoked cheese makes a satisfying appetizer as the prelude to an elegant dinner or as a meal in itself with crackers, fresh fruit and a bottle of wine. The cheese is prepared by a "cold smoking" method, which simply means smoking food at temperatures significantly lower than normally required, such as for smoking meats or fish. Using a grill with a tight-fitting lid and much less charcoal than you would normally need for a cookout, you can smoke a variety of delicious cheeses at home.
Unwrap the cheeses that you wish to smoke, place them on a tray or cookie sheet and set them out at room temperature for at least an hour. The cheese develops a slight skin that protects it from melting into blobs on the grill while still allowing the smoke to penetrate.
Soak a few aromatic wood chips in water for an hour. Each type of wood produces a distinct smoky aroma. Apple wood is good for smoking lighter cheeses, such as Colby, mozzarella and provolone. Hickory adds an intriguing smoky flavor to Gouda and Havarti. Try smoking Monterey Jack cheese with mesquite wood for a real southwestern bite.
Prepare the grill by placing seven to eight charcoal briquettes in the center and lighting. Burn until the coals are white.
Place a handful of the soaked aromatic chips directly on the coals and set the wire cooking rack on your grill.
Set your cheeses on aluminum pans, surround the cheeses with ice chips and set the pans around the outside perimeter of the grill. Do not set the pans directly over the coals, which should be smoking nicely by now.
Close the grill and open the top and side vents to allow the smoke to circulate for at least half an hour.
Check your progress after 30 minutes by making sure that the cheese is not getting too hot. Pour off the ice water that has gathered in the aluminum pans. Add another handful of wood chips to the coals if necessary to produce more smoke.
Check the progress every 15 to 20 minutes and taste a small sample of your handiwork to determine if you have achieved the level of smoky flavor that you desire. The cheese can take up to two hours to absorb the flavors.
Remove the cheeses from the grill, allow to cool and wrap tightly in a quality plastic food wrap; refrigerate.
- Artisan Cheese Making at Home; Mary Karlin