A few months ago, I bought a ProQ Cold Smoke Generator. Having got a real taste for smoked cheeses and other such flavoured delicacies – that meaty flavour really jazzes up a lot of vegetarian dishes – I wanted to turn my hand to it at home.
For those of you who don’t know, a cold-smoker, predictably enough, releases smoke at a low enough temperature (between 20-30c) to infuse delicate things like cheese, butter, vegetables and spices. A hot smoker is for things of a sturdier disposition, that can take the 50-80c temperatures it produces.
I had read a lot of very positive reviews of this particular cold smoker online. Three things greatly appealed – its size, its performance and its price. Costing only about £30, this small device can produce cool, flavourful smoke for up to ten hours, and when placed inside some kind of receptacle (I have used both a lidded barbecue and a box on different occasions) will smoke whatever you can fit inside.
Note – this is not a sponsored post, I just think this is a really great toy! And you get to tell people, “yes, I was smoking my own cheese yesterday…”
You pour wood dust into the spiral chamber, then set alight to it at one end with a tea light candle. Once it is smoking and the dust is smouldering well, you add it to your smoking container with the ingredients. It’s then just a matter of waiting and seeing! I go back intermittently to check that it is definitely still alight, but that is it. The spiral structure forces the dust to burn round and round, leading to a long, cool smoke.
Having used it a few times now with great success, I thought it was about time to post. I have smoked a number of different foods, each of which I will elaborate on at a later date, but today the topic is my latest triumph, halloumi!
This time I had to risk the wrath of the Swedish balcony police to bring this to you readers (they do NOT like smoke on balconies), so I hope you appreciate it!
I cannot for the life of me think why it wasn’t the very first thing I tried smoking. It’s practically meat for vegetarians as it is. But I finally got round to it, and I honestly think it’s the most successful thing I have smoked so far. Not being a very wet cheese, there was no dripping which can sometimes put out the smouldering wood dust, and it picked up a really lovely colour. And what flavour! Recipes, most definitely, to follow!
- halloumi cheese, as many pieces as you have space for
- cold-smoking wood dust, I used oak
- You have a pretty wide choice of containers to place the smoker in. I have had success with a couple of different small, lidded barbecues, but the plain old cardboard box I used the other day also worked fantastically.
- For the barbecue method, you simply place the smoker where you would put the coals and put the food on the grill - a lid for the barbecue, whether it comes with one or you fashion it yourself, is essential.
- For the box method, I put the smoker on a metal baking tray to avoid any potential risk of fire, then balanced an oven shelf with the food to be smoked on two glass jars. After closing the box, I covered it with a large towel to make sure that no smoke escaped.
- Your box/barbecue needs some venting - just a small hole or gap that a little oxygen can enter from. I felt that, to keep the smoke burning for all those hours, it needed some flow to achieve this.
- There are a wide range of different flavour smoke dusts for you to choose from. I used oak for this, which was great, but I suspect that halloumi could handle just about any of these interesting aromas.
- Smoking will improve a not-so-great cheese, but it will elevate a really great cheese. Opt for real halloumi, made with with a mixture of sheep and goat milk, not the somewhat inferior cow version.
- Pat the cheese dry first with paper towels. A drier surface helps the smoke adhere/penetrate better and minimises the risk of moisture dripping from the cheese onto the wood dust and putting it out.
- Go back and check intermittently to make sure that the smoker is still alight. Dripping moisture has extinguished the dust for me a few times.
- Although I have read others insist that you should only smoke cheese for a couple of hours, I disagree. I left this halloumi smoking for about eight hours and it was fantastic.
- When ready, wrap the cheese in baking paper and leave it to rest, at least overnight, even up to a week for the best flavour. This enables the smoky flavour concentrated on the outside to really penetrate and develop.