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One of the oldest gourmet cheeses from England has a green color, called Sage Derby. The color and flavor is due to the addition of sage during the cheese-making process. Originally made for special occasions, this cheese is now made all year. It can be used in many recipes and pairs well with several wine styles.
Sage derby is a type of semi-hard cheese that appears green. The green forms a characteristic marbled or mottled pattern. The color comes from the addition of sage during production. Other ingredients such as spinach juice and curd from green corn are also sometimes used in place of sage in making similar cheeses.
When added to the curd, sage adds a subtle herbal flavor to the cheese. To achieve the same flavor for products that contain spinach juice or green curd, sage extract is used. The incorporation of sage produces a minty flavor, as described by cheese professionals.
Sage was originally added to the cheese to provide health benefits. This herb was thought to aid digestion and treat anxiety. Cheese makers consider this product unique in part because the sage is added during production, rather than during the aging process. Instead of sage, some cheese producers will use bruised marigold leaves, spinach or parsley for flavor.
The first creation of sage derby has been traced to England during the 17th century, making it one of the oldest gourmet cheeses made in Great Britain. Originally the cheese was made for special occasions, such as Christmas of harvest festivals. Today it is produced and sold throughout the year.
Production begins with salted and milled Derby curds that are packed into a cheese mold until the mold is half full. Fresh sage is sprinkled over the cheese, and the mold is then filled with more curd. The mold is pressed and left to age for up to six months. Some producers may dust the outside of the cheese with sage.
Cooks using recipes that call for flavorful and semi-hard cheese can use sage derby as an ingredient. Traditionally this cheese works well in omelets, souffles, and quiche dishes. It can also be used in sauces, and is popularly served with other cheeses as an appetizer or part of a cheese board. Because of the distinct herbal characteristic of the cheese it pairs well with many red wines including Zinfandel and Syrah varieties.