Smoked cheese is any type of cheese that has been infused with the flavor of smoke. The cheeses used in smoked cheese can come from cow, sheep, goat, or any other type of milk that is typically fermented into cheese. Usually, cheeses are allowed to form and then exposed to warm or hot smoke so that the flavor permeates the outer portion of the cheese. Alternatively, smoke flavoring can be added to cheese while it is fermenting.
One process that can be used to make smoked cheese is known as hot smoking. This process isn't typically used for cheese because the temperatures used, which are between 130 and 175 degrees Fahrenheit (55 and 80 degrees Celsius), can be high enough to partially cook the cheese. The process does, however, allow cheese to smoke quickly.
The other process used to make smoked cheese, and the one that is preferred, is called cold smoking. In this process, the cheese is exposed to smoke that is between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (29 to 32 degrees Celsius). These low temperatures may allow cheeses to soften, especially if they were not firm to begin with, but will not cook them. Smoking a cheese at these temperatures can take anywhere from a few days to three or four weeks, depending on the strength of the smoky flavor desired.
It is also possible to make smoked cheese without the use of actual smoke. Liquid smoke, which is created and refined from actual smoke, can be soaked into cheese through brine or mixed directly into the milk while a cheese is fermenting. The flavor created by liquid smokes is almost indistinguishable from that of real smoke and leaves fewer undesirable chemicals, such as tar, on the cheese. Additionally, using liquid smoke while a cheese is fermenting allows the flavor to completely permeate the cheese, something that is not usually achieved through either hot or cold smoking.
A number of different cheeses can be made into smoked cheese. Rauchkase and applewood are two cheeses that only come in a smoked variety. Cheddars, goudas and gruyeres, though not always smoked, go well with the flavor of smoke and are often made into smoked varieties. Though any kind of cheese can be smoked, soft cheeses that melt at room temperature will not hold up well to either the hot or cold smoking process and should only be smoked with liquid smoke.