Bath Chaps were originally home cured from the cheeks of Gloucester Old Spot pigs, which were the breed most often kept by cottagers and farmers in Gloucestershire and Somerset. These pigs had rather elongated jaws and the rolled cheeks made neat long shapes, rather like small boneless legs of lamb. They were a local speciality, much liked in Bath where they were served at late suppers. They have a good flavour but a lot of fat in proportion to lean. They can be bought ready for table in many good West Country butchers and it is hardly worth making them at home unless other parts of the pig are being salted, or you particularly like to make traditional dishes.
Serve cold with a good mild mustard, a green salad and plenty of hot, dry wholemeal toast.
Wash the cheek well in cold water. Spread and rub the sugar mixed with the saltpetre, if you are using it, well into all sides. Lay it in a large dish, mix the salts and smother the pig’s cheek in the mixture. Keep for 10 days in a cool place or in the refrigerator, turning it every 2 days and spooning the salt over it.
At the end of this time drain the cheek, wash it in cold water and soak it in fresh cold water overnight. Drain it again, roll it lengthways and tie it tightly with string. It will need 6 to 7 ties. Put the pig’s cheek in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and skim. Cover and simmer gently for 2 hours. Drain, cut string and remove any skin. Cover the cheek thickly with crumbs, allow to get quite cold and serve at any time during the next 3 or 4 days.
©1980 The Estate of Elizabeth Ayrton