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Good, Stinky Cheese: Sage Derby

Sage derby has become an increasingly popular cheese. The fact that it can be found at most cheese counters in Buffalo is a testament to that. Unfortunately, it has been most commonly relegated to the now ubiquitous turkey sandwich with cranberry mayo–though in Buffalo Le Metro deserves its props for being the first (and only for a long time) shop to serve this combination.
Made in England, this mild cow’s milk cheese was first introduced in the 17th century when it was incorrectly determined that sage had miraculous health benefits. Today, this cheese takes many forms, some far better than others. Though all versions are semi-firm and relatively tasty, the methods which are used in manufacturing vary.
The type most commonly seen in our area is heavily marbled, an effect caused by the addition of green vegetable dye which is added to the process during its curd stage. The way that the sage flavor is introduced however, is the real test of quality in my opinion. Intense sage extracts can be used, resulting in a brighter flavor that some might say, based on the particular manufacturer of the product, is overwhelming. If your first taste of sage derby ends up being one of these cheeses, consider hunting down a milder version. Some of the heavily marbled sage derbys are made by pressing the sage leaves into the cheese, I find this method favorable.
Two of my favorites include a type where the green marbled cheese is layered, like a cake, in with a regular derby. It makes a lovely presentation if you’re looking for a nice snacking cheese. The most traditional version of sage derby is a wheel of plain derby layered with the herb in its dried form. Both of these are harder to find, particularly the last, but are worth the extra expense when a choice is offered.
The sage derby (actually pronounced “darby”, but to say that in Buffalo will result in a polite correction from the cheese attendant) that I purchased from Guercio’s was the heavily marbled version made with a combination of dried sage and a reasonable amount of sage extract; it was a great value at $8.69 per lb. The cheese selection at this fantastic Grant Street grocer is well-rounded and generally priced below the competition pound for pound.
I wanted to demonstrate to you that this cheese is good for things besides turkey sandwiches and your holiday cheeseboard, so here is a recipe for simple scones that are a great accompaniment to some of that homemade soup you have bubbling on the stove this fine, snowy day. Sage derby is also really great in quiche.
The recipe offered below differs from the many available on the internet; I think you’ll find it better. I used a “standard” grate on my cheese, I would recommend something smaller if you’re looking for a more even consistency; you will however sacrifice the quality of all of those great, chewy, melty cheese bits that are a result of direct contact with the baking sheet.
Derby Scones

2 cup flour ∙ 2 ¼ tsp baking powder ∙ 1 tsp salt ∙ 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper ∙ 1 cup grated sage derby cheese ∙ ½ cup grated derby (mild cheddar works well here as well) ∙
1/3 cup unsalted butter; cold, cut into small bits ∙ 1/3 cup milk or cream ∙ 2 large eggs ∙ 2-3 tbsp cream or beaten egg for wash

Preheat oven to 400°.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and cheese. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut in butter until the dough develops pea sized crumbs. Whisk together milk and eggs in a separate bowl. Fold into dry mixture. Very quickly knead the dough (it’s easiest to do this in the bowl), it should only take 3 or 4 good turns. Turn out onto a greased cookies sheet. Form into a disk, about 2 inches thick. Cut into 8 wedges. Pull the wedges back from the center slightly, revealing the sides of the scones for uniform browning. Brush the top with wash. Bake 15-18 minutes.

250 Grant Street, Buffalo, 14213

“Good, Stinky Cheese” is a regular column on YUM. If there’s a cheese that you’re particularly interested in, email us and let us know.

Written by Bill Zimmermann

Bill Zimmermann

Bill runs Seven Seas Sailing school, and is a staunch waterfront activist. He is also heavily involved with preserving, maintaining, and promoting the South Buffalo Lighthouse. When Bill first started writing for Buffalo Rising, he wrote an article a day for 365 days - each article coincided with a significant historic event that happened in Buffalo on that same day.

View All Articles by Bill Zimmermann
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