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Making smoked cheese

 
thomas rubino
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Hi all;  I've been making A-2 cheddar cheese for the past few months.... I'm still waiting to try some, its not done  aging in my cheese cave yet ..... 60 days is a long time to wait too try your first wheel!  Also the sharp cheddar's that I like to eat are aged 18 months or more !!! OH NO, a year and a half !  Meanwhile I bought a new grill to replace the aging weber I've had for years. After seeing what grills cost these days ... I upgraded from a regular grill to a barrel style smoker grill. I have been having a grand time collecting different hardwoods & slow cooking all sorts of meats... been thinking of cold  smoking cheese the whole time... While I was out of town for the last month I purchased a large block of vintage white cheddar . Upon returning home I found a third of a block of the same cheese  going moldy in the fridge. A little trimming to remove the mold and my first test block of cheese was ready to try smoking ! The first day I had to give up, as the sun came out and I had already discovered that it is very hard to hold a temp at 90 degrees in your smoker burning wood (cheese melts above that ) ... it is  IMPOSSIBLE to keep it that temp when the sun shines on your black smoker!  Day 2 dawned cloudy and rainy ... perfect ! They say 4 hrs is long enough to smoke your cheese... mine was in almost 6 hrs as the fire kept stalling on me. Other problem I had, was slicing  "test pieces " off... I can't stay out of cookie dough either... each time I sliced off a piece of "very tasty hickory smoked cheese" I increased the time it had to stay in the smoker... seems that just like making cheese, when you smoke cheese, it has to "AGE" for 2 weeks ! Of Course !!! The smoke flavor works into the cheese from the outside...Darn,   So every time i took a "test slice" I was cutting off the tasty smoked part I needed to flavor the rest ! After making a huge dent in my block I wised up and stopped eating my test cheese !  It is now in my cheese cave aging with the A-2 cheddar . This was made using hickory, I also have maple, oak, apple , mesquite , sassafras , alder , cherry , and pear. I can't wait to try them all !
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significantly smaller but smells heavenly
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the new smoker/grill
 
thomas rubino
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Couldn't wait any longer, 10 days is almost 2 weeks .. right ?  ... yesterday I went to the cheese cave and pulled out my hickory smoked cheddar (what I had left of it )  OMG wow!!! this is the good stuff !  Store bought smoked cheeses are a sorry example besides this !!!  Smooth, subtle ,  you can't taste the sharpness  any more and the smoke flavor creeps up on you.Its a bouquet of flavors! After you eat a slice the flavor just grows and grows. Even though she is allergic to A-1 milk products my wife kept asking me for just one more little slice...  She is really hoping that my 3rd wheel of A-2 cheddar comes out OK,  so I can smoke up it just for her !  Still waiting for A-2 milk to be available again... all this waiting for good cheese, butter and milk...  dang we will probably start loosing weight ...
 
thomas rubino
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Yesterday, I smoked a block of white cheddar with maple , then another one with apple...  both are now aging in the cheese cave.  Next week I may do several blocks at the same time using hickory, since the hickory smoked cheese came out sooo outstanding !
 
thomas rubino
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OK; two weeks is just too long... ten days is good or eight ... right ?  Maple smoked sharp white cheddar,  good but not outstanding....  apple smoked with a char  base of maple , very good, really unique after taste. Last but by far the very best is another hickory smoked chunk of sharp white cheddar , outstanding !! The last one (the hickory) I was able to keep my cheese temp no higher than 65 F  the others were flirting with 90 F the melting point. The first two are a little dryer ,having lost oils when near melting.  The hickory smoked one is it ! Moist , smokey, tasty !!! Temp down, smoke up , that is the secret of making awesome smoked cheese.
 
Maureen Atsali
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When people ask me what I miss the most about the USA, my automatic reply is "CHEESE!"  I grew up in Vermont, my aunt and uncle were dairy farmers for Cabot cheese.  The cheese which is for sale here in Kenya is inedible.  Not kidding, its so terrible.  It doesn't matter which variety you buy, they all taste the same, and its all awful.  (Its all made with vegetable rennet, not sure if that has anything to do with the bad taste...)  I really want to learn about cheese making, but I am worried... we're in the tropics, and we don't have refrigeration.  Can it be done?  So I'm reading these cheese threads, eager to learn more.

So... probably an ignorant question:  What is "A1" milk, versus "A2" milk?  I've never heard those terms.
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Maureen;  Welcome to permies!  As a preteen I spent every summer in rutland Vermont, life without Vermont cheddar would be lacking indeed !  I can certainly see your interest in learning how to make cheese.  If it is available to you, I  highly recommend getting a copy of David Ashers awesome book  "The art of natural cheese making"  I think of it as my cheese making teacher in a book.  Your question about A-1 A-2 milk,  I will try to give you a short version of a lengthy subject. If you would like more detail, look in the cattle forum here at permies for a post labeled A-2 A-2 we go into a long discussion about the differences between A-1 versus A-2  milk.   OK here we go , to start, all goat milk and sheep milk are A-2 A-2 ,  most, but not all dairy cattle are A-1 A-1.  You hear all the time about babies who are allergic to cows milk and have to drink goats milk...  if they knew of and had a source of A-2 cows milk it could be consumed without ill effect.   A-2 A-2 milk has one extra casein than A-1 milk. That one little thing changes how digestible the milk is for those who are allergic to it. Adults ,although many do not understand that they have an allergy , can be allergic to A-1 milk products (like butter , cream , cheese, milk ) My wife spent years not knowing ... after her reactions were pointed out to her it became obvious she had been suffering for years and had not made the connection.  Anytime she consumed ANY A-1 dairy product within seconds her nose would plug , her voice get raspy, her belly wouldn't feel just rite. And 2 days later mood swings , depression... not from pms (as we thought for a while) but from A-1 milk products ! Try going out for a nice dinner where any cheese or butter effects you this way I don,t know how she did it.  The day we finally found labeled A-2 A-2 milk in the store we were as excited as children, wondering if this was all bunk or if she would have a new lease on life ! One 1/2 gallon of frosty cold Guernsey milk 4" of cream floating on top... with  a big smile she shook in the cream ... popped the lid and took a long drink... We both waited...  her smile grew to huge proportions and she took another long drink... with a cream covered lips I got a big wet kiss !  She was so happy ! She still can,t go out to dinner without a reaction , but at home ... mmmm real butter .... heavy spoon cream ... icy cold milk  oh my , dinners have gotten outstanding here once she threw out nasty the margarine and  yucky coconut milk that she had been using at home. Not all people are allergic to A-1 milk products, i'm not , but if you are or even think you are then locate and try A-2 A-2 you will be shocked & very pleased if it works for you.   I hope I haven,t rambled on to long , this is a lengthy subject with opposing opinions about the validity of the claims made.  I don,t really care if some people do not believe. I Know it works , i,m sure I've gained weight since the cooking improved around here and a happy healthy wife always makes for a happy life!
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Maureen; In answer to your other question.  Yes, you can make cheese without refrigeration but...  you need a cheese cave... ya right, in Africa ! ...  A real cave with temps in the 50-60 F range would work , provided it wasn't full of creepy crawly things !  a 55 gallon barrel (or two welded together ) with no bottom buried in the shade and covered to insulate over should give you the ground temps you need . 
 
Maureen Atsali
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It is not as hot as you might think here, because of altitude and weather patterns.  We get down in the 50's at night and are usually in the 70's during the day.  A bit hotter during the dry season.  But I will have to think about this cheese cave thing...and decide how serious I am and how much work I want to put into this. Thanks!
 
thomas rubino
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Wow, that sounds like rather pleasant temps, if the humidity isn't too high. Not at all what I thought Africa would be like !  To make cheese all you would need is a source of clean fresh milk, (two gal at a time is good). Good rennet ( I use Walcoren natural rennet tablets) Large pot  and a thermometer to check temps, a turkey baster is nice and some good cheese cloth to press in. Keeping it warm but not too hot is the way. refrigeration really isn't needed at all ,  just a way to store and age it around 55-60 F .  I'm still a newbie at this myself, but it is has been really easy and quite fun to do. Watching milk turn into curds. Curds into cheese then using that same left over whey to make fresh ricotta ! My art of natural cheese making book sits rite next to my chair... I read it more than anything else. I can't recommend it enough.  
 
Maureen Atsali
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Now comes the hard part... everything which you listed will have to be imported.  Yes, the weather is paradise but we're an underdeveloped third world country.  ::sigh:: nothing is ever easy.  Last night I was looking at a paper distributed by the government on cultured milk and yogurt making... and the only source they gave for cultures... was in Denmark.  Then there is the added problem, that many companies, even if they ship internationally, refuse to ship to Kenya, because the mail is so unreliable.  Blah.  I usually have to have stuff shipped to a reliable person, and then ask that person to forward it to me. 

I think I will start by trying some of the varieties that don't require rennet... and if it goes well, and I enjoy it... well maybe it will be worth the investment.  I really miss cheese.  And smoked cheese.... oh just kill me now.  Look forward to hearing more on your cheese making endeavors!
 
thomas rubino
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Hi Maureen; Quick note about cultures & rennet.  Two different things.  Pasteurized homogenized milk must have a culture added , fresh raw milk does not, although some people like to add kiefer grains. After you have made cheese, the left over whey can be used as a starter culture.   You must have rennet. (for a rennet cheese)   One of the first cheese's I attempted to make was a goat cheese (chevre) I did not have a culture, I did have whey from making a cheese called "you can't make this with pasteurized milk cheese" As part of the chevre process you leave your pot overnight... the next morning you will find the most heavenly looking and smelling yogurt ! I'm not a big yogurt fan but this was something special looked like a fresh wind blown snow field ! I had never seen or smelled yogurt that good! I only tasted a little then waited ...  later the yogurt sank in whey and what was left after draining was chevre cheese !  Oh MY really really good stuff ! Add some herbs and spices and you have a food fit for kings ! I hope you are able to try this yourself... you will wish you had started cheese making sooner !
 
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