Monday, September 22, 2008

A Pig's Face, by any other name.

I am leaving York today and heading South, to Bath. As it turns out, it is Jane Austen week, which I did not know when I booked – proving that travel is full of good surprises. I had in mind to talk about food and dining in the Regency period, to keep in my holiday theme, and I will do this later the week – but today I want to consider the Bath Chap. Actually, what I really want to do while I am here is eat a slice or two of genuine Bath Chap.
In 2006 the Guild of Fine Food Retailers ran a competition to decide the top 10 Forgotten British Foods – and Bath Chaps are top of the list, which seems like a good enough reason to try them.

1.‘Eadles’ Bath Chaps
2. Mrs Grieve’s Fish Custard
3. Mrs Langland’s Faggots
4. Grey Squirrel Casserole
5. Rook Pie
6. Rabbit with Prunes
7. Fife Brooth
8. Roman Pie
9. 16th C Pancakes
10. A Grand Sallet (from Robert Mays’ cookbook of the 17th C)
‘Chaps’ are chops in the old-fashioned sense of the word meaning the jaw, or cheeks. So chaps are part of a pigs’s face, really. A true Bath Chap should be made from a dappled, apple-eating pig called a Gloucestershire Old Spot. The cheeks are boned, then brined (and sometimes smoked) and pressed into a cone-shaped mould. When needed, the now cone-shaped piece of meat is removed, crumbed, sliced and then eaten, or alternatively, fried then eaten. It is simply facial ham or bacon.
Should you have a desire to make your own, here is how:
Bath Chaps, Or Cheeks.
Chose your cheeks from pigs not more than eight score weight. Split open, carefully take out all the offal, and for every stone of fourteen pounds of meat, allow
Saltpetre 1 oz.
Coarse sugar 1 Ib.
Bay salt or rock 1 Ib.
Pepper 1 oz.
Rub the cheeks thoroughly and daily for a week; then turn them in the pickle for a fortnight more, when you may take them up, dry and wipe, and coat them nicely with warmed coarse oatmeal, and hang them to dry for a week. Smoke them a month, or only dry them in your chimney by a gentle heat. Oak and grass turfs must be the fuel made use of.
The art and mystery of curing, preserving, and potting all kinds of meats, game, and fish; also the art of pickling and the preservation of fruits and vegetables. By J.R, 1864.
Quotation of the Day …
Eternity is a ham and two people. Dorothy Parker.


Liz + Louka said...

My mum has a recipe for Bath Chap, and I've always wondered what it was. Thankyou for clearing this up!

Anonymous said...

I look forward to knowing how you find it, Janet. A nice thin slice of Bath chap was one of my father's favorite light meals. He was a great carver and made slices that were almost translucent. The rest of the family thought it too fatty as it was mainly fat with a little streak or two of meat.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Liz and Rachel.
I have now been in Bath a couple of hours and have looked into a few delis and butchers - but no Bath Chaps so far. One pub nearby does Scotch Eggs made with The Gloucester Spot Pork though - so that could be my dinner tomorrow. Tonight is local cheese. Not a bad second choice.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I've seen the two people and a ham = eternity attributed to a quote by Abraham Lincoln.

Cindy Bertelsen

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Cindy - that is interesting. I must try to check that out. I must admit I dont do any authenticating of the daily quotations - they are there for interest and amusement:
Anyone else out there with an opinion?

Anonymous said...

In the United States "chaps" are know as "jowls". They are available from specialty cured pork websites. Perhaps they are also a regional dish-- south eastern states. They are advertised as a cheaper source of bacon flavor than full slabs of bacon.