What are my special features?
Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine is the cured neck chine cut of pork, slashed deeply and packed with parsley, simmered or steamed and served sliced once cold and set. Parsley is now the only, or dominant, stuffing ingredient; in the past a wide variety of herbs were used such as lettuce leaves, young nettles, thyme, marjoram, sage and blackcurrant leaves.
When sliced properly by hand – flat, taking layers – the alternate stripes of pink pork and bright green parsley make for a beautiful and inviting contrast.
Making stuffed chine is a labour of love, taking around 5 weeks from pig to shop-ready chine.
Rare breed pork breeds are best for making Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine due primarily to the excellent depth of fat they possess. Rare breed pigs such as Gloucester Old Spot and particularly British Lop are favoured for making stuffed chine due to the good shape of the pigs and excellent depth of fat they possess.
What is my history?
Chine is an old English word for backbone, derived from Norman French. In general culinary use to indicate the backbone, with some attached flesh, of any animal until the 18th century, it continued to be used in connection with bacon pigs – from which the sides are normally removed without splitting the backbone.
It is not clear when the Lincolnshire version of stuffed chine developed, but it is a county is which pig rearing has always been important, and oral tradition indicates that the dish has a long history.
Stuffed chine was traditionally made from the now extinct Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig, a breed that would grow very fat. Once hung to set up, the very thick layer of fat would firm up. This, combined with the difficulty of sawing directly through the backbone, supposedly led to the sawing through the ribs either side, removing both flitches and leaving the chine running centrally from the nose to the tail.
The story goes that the chine, with rind only protecting the back and leaving a large area of exposed meat, went mouldy while hanging. Having scrubbed off the mould, strong-tasting herbs were picked from the garden and packed into deep slits cut into the meat before it was boiled in a copper pot. The slaughter and butchery of a pig was a community event; neighbours helped each other and gifted cuts of meat in thanks. The successful use of the chine was shared amongst the community in the same way. Stuffed chine was traditionally reserved for special occasions such as May Hiring Fairs, christenings and feast days.
When the French poet Paul-Marie Verlaine spent a year as a schoolmaster near Boston, Lincolnshire, in the mid-1870s he fell in love with chine, so much that he tried, unsuccessfully, to find it elsewhere in Britain.
Why am I forgotten?
Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine is still in demand, in and out of the county; however, it is now maintained by only a small number of passionate producers. In much the same way as the Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig from which stuffed chine was made, if the remaining few skilled individuals who maintain the tradition stop production then the Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine will be lost.
Imitation stuffed chines are produced using bacon collar and sliced the wrong direction to allow for the use of a slicing machine. These versions are not strictly traditional, but many of the processes are the same or similar, and they can play a role in preserving this regional delicacy. For authenticity, however, true stuffed chine using the correct cut and sliced by hand should be sought out.
In 1996 Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine was almost lost; potential changes in EU legislation were discussed that would require slaughtered pigs to be split down the backbone, thus eliminating the chine cut. Fortunately a campaign was launched in protest and was successful in blocking the legislation.
Don’t lose me… cook me!