Smoked cheeses have been around almost as long as cheese itself. Heat is involved in the preservation of the milk (as it has been wit many other foods) and the heat was usually derived from the burning of vegetative matter â€“ usually some sort of wood. The wood that was, and still is, used in many of these cheese making operations would be a type that would lend a pleasant flavor note to the cheese after smoking.
The incidences where the actual smoking of cheeses occurs today are fewer than in the past. The smoking would help cure the cheese, help dry the cheese, and would also keep the cheese makers themselves warm in the cooler climes.
To ensure consistency and increase efficiency in many operations the use of liquid smoke is often used. Another advantage to liquid smoke is that it has bacteriostatic properties. This also presents a challenge to the cheese maker, as good bacteria are part of what gives cheeses their greater flavor and aroma. There are advantages and disadvantages to using the cooler vaporous smoke or the liquid smoke.
IdiazÃ¡bal is a cheese that has been around for millennia, or something very much like it. It is a name-protected cheese that is produced from raw sheep milk, one that was cured with smoke wafting around the wheels for several days. Nowadays the producers of this cheese are moving toward the use of liquid smoke. This may sound a little chemical and thusly alarming. However the liquid smoke is derived from actual smoke with no added chemicals added, at least in virtually all cases.
There is a non-smoked version of IdiazÃ¡bal but this is one cheese whose flavor is enhanced with a little â€œsmoking.â€ It adds a little sweetness to the cheese.
You can get a little more information on smoking and other cheese making practices in our Mastering Cheese Intensive series.
Posted by Artisanal Cheese