I’m a chap for a roast pig’s cheek

                            Roast pig’s cheek from Waterall  Brothers

I WAS standing in line at Waterall Brothers, those Princes of Pork on Sheffield’s  Moor Market, hoping to buy a roast pork hock for Sunday tea when I realised they had run out. But they did have some roast pig’s cheeks at a bargain £1.80 each.

And as customers ahead of me ordered their sliced ham, haslet and pork chops I must have fallen into a kind of reverie because I asked for a Bath Chap.

The assistant looked at me with incomprehension. I rapidly said “pig’s cheek” for a Bath chap is not something you will find around here these days but in the Seventies  you could buy them in Sainsbury’s, although I was living Down South at the time.

It’s the same bit of the pig, its lower face or cheek, just treated in a different way.

A Bath chap is the cheek boned, brined for a couple of weeks, soaked then boiled until tender, skinned and rolled in breadcrumbs. You ate it sliced like ham for tea or fried like bacon. I haven’t  seen it for years although it still is a speciality in Bath and surrounding  Wiltshire.

More of that in a minute. I took my half a snout back home and as it still retained its jawbone and teeth my wife absented herself from the kitchen while I removed the skin, ideal as crackling although it may need a turn in the frying pan, and sliced the meat.

There was a fair bit of fat, which tasted sweet, and a decent amount of pink meat. It’s perhaps not the best tasting portion of a pig but it was all the better for a dressing of honey and mustard, served alongside boiled new potatoes.

I would love to make a Bath Chap (chap is the older word for chops, or cheek) but my only attempt at butchering a pig’s face ended in disaster. I was planning to make guanciale, the Italian cured pig’s cheek, and bought a half pig’s head from the market for a quid. My wife temporarily left home on that occasion.

To be honest I made a pig’s ear out of that pig’s face and, after curing, I found I had gone horribly wrong. Perhaps next time I will pay them to butcher it for me.

Guanciale is an altogether different product to the Bath Chap after it has been cured (allspice and thyme  are two of the aromatics) then hung. It tastes like bacon plus plus plus. It can be fried and incorporated into dishes and sauces or thinly sliced and served with a plate of charcuterie.

And that got me into another reverie. How good would it be to see a plate of English, or even Yorkshire charcuterie? Honey roast ham, haslet, black pudding, white pudding (both of which can be eaten without frying), Polony sausage, savoury ducks, corned beef . . .

Can’t see that catching on, can you?

                              The meat and skin sliced off the bone