Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Product Review: Ilchester Sage Derby Cheese

In the seventeenth century English cheesemakers began adding sage to their Derby cheese. This is because sage was believed to have medicinal properties and aide in digestion.[1] In fact, both the common name (sage) and the scientific name of the genus (Salvia) are both derived from the Latin word salvus, which means "healthy".[2] The species name (officinalis) refers to the medicine cabinet (officina) used by Medieval monks.[3] Medieval uses for sage included [4]: warding off evil, as a styptic, as a diuretic, to treat snakebites, as an anesthetic, to increase womens' fertility, as an emmenagogue, and even in a concoction, called Four Thieves Vinegar, which was used to ward off the Black Plague.[5] In modern times it is used simply as a savory spice for flavoring stuffing and fatty meats, such as pork (especially sausage).

My verdict: Based on the advice of this website, we ate this cheese with grapes (they recommended red but we bought black) and slices of kiwifruit. The grapes were a nice complement, but I didn't think the kiwifruit was a good choice. The flavor was very similar to cheddar, with a hint of sage. Some people claim that the sage is so intense that it almost tastes minty. I didn't notice it that strongly, but Leann said it was a bit distracting. Unless you have a need for green cheese (e.g. for St. Patrick's Day or to celebrate Dr. Seuss in some way) or really like the idea of sage in your cheese, you might as well just buy cheddar.


[1] See http://www.cheese.com/Description.asp?Name=sage%20derby.

[2] See http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sage.

[3] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common sage#Taxonomy.

[4] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common sage#History.

[5] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four Thieves Vinegar.

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