By Jeff Bishop, YS640 owner
YS640 owner shares tips on how he cold smokes
a variety of cheeses, from Swiss to Feta
Your choice of hard or soft cheese(s)
Your choice of pellets or chips
Your choice of wood
Yoder Smokers pellet grill
The wonderful advantage of the Yoder Smokers pellet grill is that you can turn it on but not start the pellets, which simply turns the fan on and moves the smoke over the cheese and out the chimney. I’ve found this minimizes the bitterness cold smoke can impart on cheese.
I load the tube smoker up, place it on the bottom grate to the left side of the pit above the firebox, light it, let it burn a few minutes and blow it out. Place the cheese on the top rack of the Yoder away from the heat of the smoke generator to avoid melting.
Temperature is a huge factor in cold smoking. I’ll cold smoke when the ambient temperature is between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit. A true cold smoke is 90 degrees or less, but in my experience, if you hit 70 degrees outside temp, the heat from the smoke generator will actually start to affect the quality of the cheese. You can help alleviate this issue with a tray of ice water on the bottom grate, but I find it easier to just plan my time to cold smoke accordingly.
When it comes to wood choice, it all comes down to preference. I prefer a mix of hickory and cherry for an all around nice smoke. If I’m just smoking hard/semi hard cheeses such as cheddar, swiss, pepperjack, colby, I may just use straight hickory. On the soft cheeses such as bleu, feta or cream, I’ll use cherry, alder or even apple.
When I cold smoke cheese, normally I size the cheese down to no thicker than a cube of butter. The pictures I have here are from large loafs that I cut to the appropriate width, but I should have actually cut them in half again prior to smoking. Having the cheese the size of a quarter pound stick of butter allows for amazing smoke penetration.
Time for smoking. The length of smoking time varies by the amount of smoke flavor a person likes and the type of wood being used. I, personally, like a heavy smoke flavor, so while others may only smoke their cheese for a few hours, I will smoke it until I start to see the color I like, as I know it will have the flavor I’m wanting. Generally speaking, I cold smoke cheese for up to 8 hours.
Once done, the cheese will have a bitter flavor, and it will need to rest. The longer you let the cheese rest, the more the smoke flavor will mellow. I normally vacuum seal the cheeses and let them rest in the refrigerator for at least a month. After that if the cheese is still too bitter/smoky, seal it back up and let it rest longer. Having said that, I’ve used cold smoked cheese within a week and enjoyed it. One of the best cold smoked cheeses I’ve done is pepperjack. The smoke flavor was so strong, I ended up resting it over 6 months.