Adding smoke to foods can introduce a new level of flavor into the mix. When we think of smoking, we tend to think about meats. But did you know that you can smoke cheeses as well and change the way that you view this tasty dairy treat?
Smoking different cheeses can make for a fun and interesting experiment. When you’re done with the smoking process, there comes an important question: how do you properly store your smoked cheese for later use?
How to Store Smoked Cheese
When the cheese has finished smoking, take it right off the grill and wrap it up in untreated butcher paper or parchment paper. The cheese will need a little bit of time to breathe properly before you wrap it up and store it.
To give it proper breathing time, wrap it up and place it into the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. After it has had time to sit in the fridge, it is now time to take it out of the wrapping paper and vacuum seal it for later usage.
A vacuum sealer is recommended for the best possible storage. Vacuum sealers work by compressing all of the air out of the storage bag. Exposure to air is the enemy of just about any food and by getting rid of the excess air in the bag, you can prolong the life of just about any food.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, don’t worry. Plastic freezer bags will work just as well so long as you get the majority of the air out. Instead of simply pressing down on the bag, you can submerge the bag in water except for the top seal. The water will actually force most of the air out of the bag. When the zipline is nearly under the water, seal it tightly without letting any of the water into the bag.
Whichever method you choose to use, properly label your cheese. Without labeling things that go into the fridge or freezer, you may be left wondering how long it has been since you sealed it. By dating it and listing the contents, you can know precisely how long it’s been and how much longer you can use it.
After placing your sealed bags into the fridge, you’ll need to wait for two weeks. While this may seem crazy, there’s actually reasoning behind it that makes sense. If you eat the cheese right away after smoking, it will taste very smoky almost to the point of acrid. This is because the smoke is heaviest on the outside of the cheese.
Allowing the cheese time to sit in the fridge gives the cheese a chance to permeate and distribute throughout the cheese. This will mellow the smoke flavor and make it more enjoyable instead of the harsh taste that it can have immediately after smoking.
Can Smoked Cheese Be Stored in the Freezer?
The short answer is yes. Much like anything else that gets stored in the freezer, smoked cheese needs to be secured properly to prevent freezer burn or too much air becoming trapped and spoiling the cheese.
Again, if you have vacuum bags, this is the best route because it will get nearly all of the air out of the bag. Freezer bags will work just as well so long as the air has been taken out of them to the fullest extent possible.
You can freeze smoked cheese for anywhere from six to eight weeks with little issue so long as they are sealed properly. When it comes time to bring the cheese back to room temperature, let it defrost overnight or at least for two and a half hours. The result should be nearly identical to cheese that has never been frozen.
What Can You Use Smoked Cheese for?
Whatever you planned to use cheese for, having smoked cheese can only amplify the entire experience. You can enjoy it on its own, put it on some crackers, melt it on top of a delicious burger, or even gift it to someone that you care about.
Cheese has so many different uses and adding a layer of smoky flavor only enhances the cheese from top to bottom. If you love cheese, you’re going to love smoked cheese even more.
Smoking the Cheese
You’ll want to smoke your cheese at a low temperature to prevent it from melting. This is different from smoking meats since the meats don’t melt. Shoot for a temperature that is no higher than 90 degrees or you’ll end up with a gooey mess instead of a smoked treat.
You’ll want to place the cheese on the grate of your smoker and set a trio of lit charcoal briquettes flat in the firebox or charcoal pan of the smoker. To create the smoke, place a flat piece of wood on top. You want just a little bit of airflow permeating throughout and you’ll have to replace the wood or charcoal from time to time to keep the smoke going for as long as you want.
Place the cheese directly on the grate and allow it to get a light smoke application for roughly four hours. When you’re done directly applying the smoke, you need to give it time to rest. Eating the cheese directly after smoking it will have too strong of a smoke taste. That’s because the smoke is simply on the outside of the cheese.
By giving your cheese ample time to rest – generally two weeks – you give the smoke a chance to permeate throughout the entirety of the cheese. This will lessen the harshness of the smoke flavor, making it more subtle and delicious than it had been in the wake of the smoke.
You can experiment by using different flavors of wood as you gain more experience. Whatever you do, smoking your cheese is super easy to do and can give the cheese a completely different flavor profile from what you knew.