While it's cooler outside it's the best time to smoke a bunch of cheese.
Did mine a week ago, tested it today. My best batch ever and I think my new favorite wood for cheddar is hickory.
This is extra sharp cheddar. I crusted it with black pepper before vacuum sealing it. Going to be fantastic after it rests a few months. Last year I did extra sharp cheddar with pecan and crusted in chipotle. Still have one of those sealed floating around.
I been wanting to do this for a long time but didn’t have a proper equipment or the correct weather conditions. I recently bought an A-MAZE-N smoking tube.
It was expected to get down to 41 degrees (fairly cool nights for Southern California) and it was only 67 during the day so I decided to give this a try. Around 4:00 PM I started by cooling the kamado down by placing 5 pieces of Blue Ice in it.
Around 8:30 it reached 50 degrees outside, so I started up the A-MAZE-N smoking tube in my gasser so as not to heat up the kamado.
Once it ignited, I let it burn for a few minutes
before blowing out the flame.
I let it smoke while I went in and prepared the cheese. I had purchased 2 lbs. of Gouda, Colby Jack and Sharp Cheddar at Costco.
I took them out of their wrappers.
I cut them up into smaller sizes so they could absorb more smoke and placed them on a wire rack.
I then placed the A-MAZE-N smoking tube in the bottom of my kamado. I next put in both of my ceramic heat deflectors, then the grill grates and then the rack of cheese. (You can see some of the smoke coming up around the deflectors)
I closed the lid and observed a small amount of smoke coming out the top vent.
An hour later it looked like this.
After two hours in the smoke I opened the lid. WOW!
I brought the rack in the house where I could see a subtle change in the cheese color.
I vacuum packed them all and placed them in the fridge to age and mellow for 3 weeks.
This morning I when out to see how much of the pellets were left in the A-MAZE-N smoking tube. It looks like approximately 1/3 was left unburnt. I’m thinking it could’ve gone at least another hour.
I can’t wait to try them but will wait to let time do its thing on them first.
Thanks for looking.
Octoberfest Feast: Schweinshaxe, Rotkohl, & Spaetzle + Soft Pretzel Bonus
It was time to do an Octoberfest meal even though the weather here in North Georgia is not yet cooperating with fall like temperatures. This meal has a lot of moving parts on the execution and is a great opportunity for team cooking and lends itself to several different German beers – as you will see.
The result as you see was graded as 100 % perfection!
The final beer selection for the main meal was a Hacker Pschorr – Original Octoberfest Amber Marzen.
A picture definition of Schweinshaxe. That skin is so good.
And a nice soft pretzel to enjoy.
Time to cook
So let’s get on with it - as this meal will take about 5 hours plus of preparation, cooking, an occasional detour for having a beer and perhaps even a pre-meal snack. It is a truly a two person cook for best efficiency unless several of the meal elements (pretzels and cabbage) are prepared ahead of time.
My favorite saying, with voice of experience to back it up, is that a person cannot cook outside and inside at the same time and not have some element of the cook lack the proper attention.
My son and I teamed up for this cook and just let the division of work fall out on its own as we progressed. The whole family cooks together enough that we have a really great kitchen dynamic together. Wife and daughter got to sit this one out.
In case you are interested, the interleaved 5 hour time flow works about like this:
Take a pre-shift “union break” – have a beer Prepare and get hocks on the boil. Get Big Joe set up for indirect cooking and stabilized at 375 degrees (Of course at this point, I realized I needed to do an ash clean out for this longer higher heat roasting) Prepare pretzel dough and put to rise Take another “union break” – have another beer Prepare red cabbage and get it cooking Remove boiled hocks, do final roasting prep and get cooking on Kamado When dough is ready, make pretzels and put to the bake When pretzels are ready to serve, have a pre-meal appetizer Take another “union break” Make the gravy from the pork stock About 30 minutes before the meat is anticipated to be ready, prepare the spaetzle batter When meat is removed and resting, boil the spaetzle, then do the final pan sauté in butter
This task I adopted in the cook. My biggest pressure challenge to myself was to get the skin perfectly cooked. I hit it 100%.
Got these nice knuckles at a local Korean/Asian market. The 4 hocks were just over 12 pounds and were $1.19 a pound. They looked really nice - what a deal!
Without starting a religious, regional, or cultural war, I choose the boil, then roast method. I like the ability to impart flavor in the meat with the boil stage.
As a starting point this recipe is a good one:
FYI. Instead of placing the aromatics in cheesecloth, I like to put them in a tea ball. In addition to the seasonings indicated in the recipe, we added some dried thyme and juniper berries.
First beer up in the rotation both for the cooking pot and cooks treat was a Paulaner Hefe-Weizne. One bottle went in the boiling pot.
Since these were larger hocks and fight tightly in the pot (I thought I was going to need my outdoor cooking pot but managed to get them into my large Magnalite) they were boiled for about 1 hour 20 minutes. Then removed and cooled on a sheet pan. After scoring the fat with my Japanese deba, I used a medium sprinkling of Koscher salt on the skin to aid initial drying and crisping on the Kamado. It will get rinsed off a bit with the basting anyway.
Reserve the stock for basting and gravy making.
Lets's get roasting.
I treat the pork interior meat cook like a pulled pork. Probe until tender which is right around the 200 degree mark (give or take). The skin should be hitting the perfect crisping and cracklin texture at about the same time. The cracklin skin will have a sharp click sound when tapped with the tongs as opposed to a dull sound on softer not yet well crisped skin.
Move the hocks around in the grill and rotate inside to outside surfaces to get even cooking on skin. I basted the hocks about three times during the cook with the pork stock.
After I pulled the smaller ones, I need a bit more skin cook crisping time on the larger ones, so I opened the vent to get more hot air flowing and monitored the temp which eventually climbed to about 425 before I removed the meat. About 5-8 minutes after opening the vents was enough to finalize the skin.
I used no flavoring wood – just let the KJ charcoal do its thing. In this case, they roasted about 1H40 minutes for the smaller ones and 1H50 or so for the larger.
Don’t forget to make the gravy later from the pork stock.
The Soft Bavarian Pretzel Bonus
Son is the self-proclaimed baker. So he adopted this task. He had not done pretzels before so he said his challenge was to get them just right in texture and baking. He felt at the end he hit his challenge 100% also. All agreed.
What would Octoberfest be without good soft pretzels. This is the bonus in the cook. Take a few minutes and make these pretzels. Here is the recipe we selected:
When they are baked and ready to eat later in the cook they fill a nice niche as an appetizer.
The pretzel course demanded a Warsteiner Dunkel as the beer selection.
The Rotkohl (Braised Red Cabbage)
This was a joint task. This red cabbage, onion, and apple dish to me is a wonderful accompaniment with the pork. Here is a good recipe. Just follow it and you are good to go:
The cabbage needs an hour or so to cook, thus now is a good time to get it underway. Not much else to say other that don't let it burn in the pot as the liquid disappears..
I adopted the spaetzle task, but it was easy and less messy in the actual boiling portion with my son loading the batter into the cup on the spätzle maker. This is another excellent traditional accompaniment.
Easy to make. Use this recipe https://thestayathomechef.com/grannys-german-spaetzle/
As I had some really jumbo farm-fresh eggs from my neighbor’s relatives, I just used 4 eggs and added a bit more milk. I also double the fine minced parsley. Don’t forget to heavily salt the water.
For a homemade spaetzle press, my son suggested the flat cheese grater which we used smooth side up. Perfect hole size and spacing. Needing a ‘cup’ for the batter, I cut a 2 ¾ in long piece of 2 inch diameter PVC pipe. Works quite well. Fill the cup and away you go.
When the spaetzle batches are all boiled, rinse and drain. Then sauté in a frying pan in butter with a bit of salt and pepper.
Serve with the gravy.
Ready to Serve. Happy Octoberfest! Time to enjoy a great family meal. Don't worry, I expect there will (hopefully) be some leftovers.
Cook: Simmer in beer with onions and maybe peppers, then a brief sear over the coals. Optionally (as in, if I remember) a pinch or two of caraway seeds.
Brand: Johnsonville (Publix's are too mild...not enough seasoning)
Eat: With chow-chow or Vidalia onion relish and deli-style mustard. The dark gold stuff with seeds in.