……and it still raining, and as I sit in front of the log fire on Boxing Day, cheese for lunch, a light lunch, a little bit of smoked fish from Hampshire Farmers Market, some of our smoked cheese, some St Jude fresh cheese and warm toast. Smoking used to be all about the preservation of food, for another day, week or year. But now it is really all about adding value. Large quantities of so called ‘Smoked Cheese’ as you will find out, is not smoked, it has been re processed and a flavour has been added to replicate smoke. The net result of this, is you either love it or loath it.
We do a lot of Hampshire Farmers Markets each week and customers come for our smoked cheese, as they love it, it costs twice as much as the re-processed, but ours is taken down to Dorset Smokery, half a ton at a time, left there for a couple of days and then we have to return to collect it and it all costs money. So my message to customers is half the quantity, double the quality, and it then costs the same.
There is something quite pervasive about the smell of wood smoke, it always brings back memories. The smell of large wood fires when we spend time in the winter, hedging and fencing and burning up the bigger wood that we don’t use for logs. The log fire at home or even in the pub is not just about the heat it generates but that smell of a well seasoned log smouldering away in the grate, and the little puffs of smoke that should have gone up the chimney, but didn’t, and found their way back into the room. The camp fire at home when I was probably only 12 years old, getting the darned fire to go, then an hour later it is hot enough to cook a slice of bacon and a fried egg, actually, make it two eggs, one will end up on the floor or in the dog before it makes it to the plate and then my fork, by which time every thing is smoked, the bacon, the egg, my hair, my clothes and the dog.
That of course, is hot smoke. To smoke the cheese, you need cold smoke. We are often asked how long do you smoke it for and why don’t you smoke you own. To get a level of consistency, the smoking has to be done properly, I could stick the odd cheese up the chimney at home on a cold winters evening, and I might well think that is ‘Nice’ but you might not agree, and it certainly wont be the same next time!!!!