A brief history of smoking cheese
Vintage Organic Oak Smoked Cheddar Range
At the recent World Cheese Awards, our Oak-Smoked Vintage Organic Cheddar won the Gold Award for Best Smoked Cheese. To celebrate we’ve decided to shed a little light on the world of smoked cheeses, and investigate how it may have come about.
Here at Godminster, we use the Wiltshire Smokehouse to smoke our Cheddar. Our Oak-Smoked Vintage Organic has a rich, smooth flavour with the creamy texture that the Godminster range is renowned for. We think it’s wonderful!
For us, smoking cheese is a way to add extra flavour and a different dimension to our cheese. Smoked cheese may have more depth of flavour than unsmoked cheeses, and people who love smoky, woody flavours may prefer smoked cheese over normal cheese.
Smoked cheese is especially delicious at Christmas as it compliments the wonderful flavours often found in the British Christmas dinner. We think our Oak-Smoked Vintage Organic Cheddar would make the ideal star of any Christmas cheese board.
So how did smoking cheese come about?
Let’s start with the history of normal cheese.
It was the Romans that started the cheese making process as we know it, and they are credited with the first ageing of cheese too – which means they were amongst the first to experiment with different ripening techniques and flavourings. This could mean they were also amongst the first to experiment with smoking.
As history went on, different countries and cultures made their own cheese in their own ways – with many countries developing their own techniques, styles and flavours. In Switzerland they are most famous for their Emmental cheese, which many countries still nickname ‘Swiss cheese’ to this day. In the Netherlands, Edam and Gouda cheese emerged as the front runners, and in France, softer and stronger cheeses like Camembert were more popular.
Here in the UK, Cheddar has always been one of our most well-known cheese varieties. This particular type of cheese originated from a village called Cheddar in Somerset, not far from where we are based in Bruton. The caves located in Cheddar Gorge provide an ideal, constant temperature for maturing the delicious Cheddar cheese.
When did people begin to smoke cheese for flavour?
The exact origins of smoked cheese are unknown, but it’s most likely that it was discovered by accident. A lucky accident of course!
Some food historians think that perhaps the owner of an ancient cheese store kept his product close by to a wood-burning fire and noticed that it gave the cheese a distinct flavour over time.
In 2018 we smoke cheese very deliberately, there is nothing accidental about it! Everything from the intensity of the heat, or the kind of wood chips used, can affect the flavour outcome. It’s a little bit like making whisky; every part of the process – no matter how small it may seem – has some bearing on the final product and how delicious the cheese tastes.
What are the methods to make smoked cheese?
Most cheesemongers choose to smoke their cheese in smokers now, but there are still some who prefer the traditional method of an open wood fire. There are also unconventional methods – you can use a newer method of ‘liquid smoke’. The smoked flavour is liquified and mixed directly in. For us, traditional is best in this instance, and The Wiltshire Smokehouse continues to use age-old methods.
If you’d like to try our award-winning smoked cheese, you can buy it online here.