What are my special features?
The lower portion of a long-jawed pig’s cheeks, pickled in brine for 2-3 weeks, soaked in fresh water for 24 hours then boiled for 3 to 4 hours. Cooled, skinned and rolled in breadcrumbs. Sometimes smoked. Usually served cold in the same ways as ham, often with eggs, although they are sometimes eaten sliced and fried.
Bath Chaps are the cheek and tongue of the pig tied or pressed into shape before being boiled, skinned and breaded.
If fat equals flavour, Bath Chaps are blessed. They include with a fairly high fat content, ensuring the meat stays juicy and succulent.
What is my history?
The word ‘chap’ is simply a variant of ‘chop’ which in the 16th century meant an animal’s jaws and cheeks: 18th century recipe books gave instructions for salting and air-curing pigs’ cheeks.
They have long been regarded as a West Country delicacy. In the 19th century meat from both upper and lower jaws was used, though the lower, which contained the tongue, sold at twice the price of the upper.
They can be bought raw at some butchers, but they are usually sold prepared and cooked. The meat is boned, and brined (they used to be dried as well.) The cone shape comes from a special mould that the boned, brined cheeks are pressed into. Bath Chaps were originally made from the Gloucestershire Old Spot breed, itself a UK Ark of taste product.
Why am I forgotten?
Like much offal, traditional cuts and products such as bath chaps have become unfashionable and dropped out of use against more expensive, favoured prime cuts. In recent times there has been a partial return to economic usage of entire beasts, nose to tail eating, as pioneered by chefs such as Fergus Henderson, a member of our Chef Alliance.
Despite still being enjoyed as a West Country delicacy, production and availability in the rest of the UK is very limited.
Don’t lose me… cook me!