How to Cold Smoke at Home
My husband always knows what to buy me for Christmas. It is always something food related. First there was the Kenwood; next came the cheese making kit; and this year, a gadget for cold smoking. I have dabbled with hot smoking before, which imparts a great smokey flavour while cooking the produce, but what I’ve been longing to do is impart that smokey flavour without cooking. Cold smoking will enable me to create delights such as smoked salmon, cheese, nuts and butter. Some of the Masterchef girls have also suggested that I might like to smoke white chocolate!
The idea behind the smoker is you make smoke; cool it down; pass it over food. The claims of the A Maze N Pellet smoker is that it produces very little heat so can be used on the grill for smoking. We tried it in a dustbin. Admittedly, it was a fairly hot day, but the temperature in the bin still rose to 40 degrees Celsius. Those sort of temperatures were fine for the ricotta I was smoking but would not be good for salmon. Here are the photos from the smoking adventure part 1.
The home smoker part 2 involved 2 dustbins and a drain pipe. The smoke generator is placed in the first dustbin. The first dustbin is then attached to the second dustbin with a short length of drain pipe. The second dustbin contains the the cooling rack that the food is placed on. The bin with the smoke generator also needs a couple of holes at the bottom to allow the air to circulate. With the bin lid on this creates a nice little smoke haven. The pellets that you buy to go in the smoke generator burn for a surprisingly long time, so long as the external air temperature is not too high, you should be able to cold smoke quite effectively.
So far I have smoked ricotta and cheddar. I am waiting for a cool enough evening to try the salmon. The ideal temperature for cold smoking salmon is 12C so I really need to wait for Autumn. I probably could get away with temperatures up to about 20C but anything much higher and you are getting into the realms of hot smoking.
In order to smoke the ricotta, I made some whey ricotta, following this recipe but with an increased amount of milk. The ricotta has to be firm to smoke, but I like the creamy flavour of whey ricotta, so I followed my recipe but with equal amounts of whey to milk. I also increased the vinegar to 50ml to compensate for the increase in liquid.
In order to make the cheese firm enough for smoking I drained it in a ricotta basket, flipping after a couple of hours, then lightly pressing for a couple of hours.
Once pressed the ricotta needs to be air dried. This is the most important aspect of hot or cold smoking. The smoke needs a dry surface, or pellicle, to stick to. This usually takes about 24 hours, basically the cheese needs to be dry to the touch.
The ricotta was smoked, using oak pellets, for 4 hours. That provided a distinctly smoked, but not too dry cheese. A pleasant surprise as I was expecting it to have the texture of a baked ricotta, but it was definitely still an uncooked cheese.
I enjoyed it so much I have also smoked a piece of cheddar. Unfortunately, cheddar takes a few months to age, so you’ll have to wait a while to see how that turned out.