There are references to ‘green cheese’ as far back as the fourteenth century, but the name does not refer to the colour, but to the unripe newness of young (‘fresh’) cheese. The name might have needed a little clarification even as far back as the sixteenth century, for we find the monk Andrew Boorde noting in his Dyetary that ‘Grene chese is not called grene by the reason of colour, but for the newnes of it.’
I guess that explains the moon myth – the moon does look a bit like a ball of soft cheese with a lumpy surface, doesn’t it?
Green cheese also at times refers to an inferior sort of cheese made from skim milk or whey – good whey being said to have a greenish hue. The author of one eighteenth century dairying manual explains at one point in his cheese-making instructions:
“When the Whey is of a white colour the Curd is not fully settled, &; if it is so to any great degree, the Cheese is sure to be sweet, and in that case you are sure to cast away a great part of what should be Cheese, for the Whey thus put away would neither turn to Butter nor Cheese, though of a considerable substance, remaining of an undigested nature; If you pursue the method I have laid down, you will always find the Whey quite green, which is the colour it ought to be of;”
Dairying Exemplified, by J. Twamley, 1784
Finally of course, cheese can be made green by the addition of herbs. Here is a nice recipe from, of all things, an animal husbandry book with the full title of:
THE ART OF
PRESERVING THE HEALTH
CURING THE DISEASES
DOGS, OXEN, COWS, SHEEP, & SWINE.
A GREAT VARIETY OF
ORIGINAL AND APPROVED RECIPES;
HUNTING, SHOOTING, COURSING, RACING &; FISHING
AND A SUMMARY OF GAME LAWS;
With an enlivening Selection of the
The whole forming an invaluable and useful Companion to all Persons
concerned in the Breeding and Managing of domestic Animals.
Green cheese is made by steeping over night in a proper quantity of milk, two parts of sage with one of marigold leaves, and a little parsley after being bruised, and then mixing the curd of the milk thus greened, as it is called, with the curd of the white milk. These may be mixed irregularly or fancifully according to the pleasure of the operator. The management in other respects is the same as for common cheese. These are mostly made in Wiltshire.
The modern farrier … A.Lawson 1828
Quotation for the Day.
‘I haue no peny’, quod Pers, ‘poletes to bugge, Nouther gees ne grys, bote twey grene cheeses’.
The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman, William Langland (1362)