One of my favorite Tillamook Cheese varieties is the Vintage White Smoked Extra Sharp Cheddar. It is the perfect combination of smokey flavor and creamy, sharp cheddar. So, I thought why not try to smoke my own cheese using appliances I already have? Tillamook uses a cold smoker and unfortunately I don’t have one, so I was forced to use my Traeger smoker. When smoking meat, these are the best smokers available, but we learned they are not quite as good smoking a product that can melt. I went into this experiment hoping that I could get it to work and I’d be able to smoke my own cheese. However, after trying a few combinations of things, it looks like I’ll just have to keep buying my smoked cheese from the experts. Here’s what I did though – try it out and let us know if you come up with any other methods that will work better than mine.
I tried to smoke 4 different flavors – Medium, Special Reserve Extra Sharp, Pepper Jack, and Vintage White Medium. I was wanting to see if the age of the cheese would actually effect the ability of the cheese to be smoked. This was not a scientific experiment, but it appeared that the sharper the cheese, the more it picked up the smokey flavor. Why do you think that is?
I also tried a few sizes – 8oz, 1lb and 2lb. This was to determine if it was possible to infuse flavor into a baby loaf of cheese, or if the cheese needs to be thinner to pick-up the smoke. I punctured the baby loaf in order to allow the smoke to penetrate, but it didn’t flavor as well as the thinner 8oz and 1lb loafs. The benefit of the 2lb loaf though is that it had the fortitude to not melt down as much as a thinner loaf on the hot smoker. To combat the hot smoker, I tried to create a semi-cold smoker by turning the Traeger on and off – trying to keep it as cool and smoke filled as possible. Unfortunately the smoke just didn’t billow until it was hot enough to melt the cheese.
Overall, I was able to create a smokey flavor in the cheeses. However, the trade-off was that the texture and shape of the cheese was completely lost. Reheating cheese and then cooling it back down is a bad idea. If you have a cold smoker, this could be done, but I don’t recommend using a hot smoker. At the end of the day, the flavor was obtained, but the texture and consistency of Tillamook smoked cheeses was not. I’ll be buying my smoked cheese from now on!