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What Is... Bath Chaps?

Bath Chaps definition…

Let’s get one thing straight – a Bath Chap is not a lad who hails from the city of Bath. It’s a Great British Delicacy and truth to tell, since the 1900s has been overlooked and neglected – until now.

The Chap is the lower half of a pig’s cheek and the word is thought to come from “chop” which in the sixteenth century meant the jaws & cheeks of an animal.

But why Bath?

Well, in long-gone days, Bath was near enough to the pig- and bacon-producing counties of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire to receive regular supplies of pigs for processing. Then most pigs were Gloucester Old Spots, a breed known for their particularly long jaw and fleshiness….Good start for a Bath Chap.

Traditionally a Bath Chap was cooked and cured like a whole ham, pressed into a cone-shaped mould, and coated in breadcrumbs. Aficionados of “proper” French traiteurs will recognise this as similar to a Jambonneau.

A Bath Chap from Yorkshire…?

A Bath Chap from Lishman’s of Ilkley is something different. A world apart from the classic flavour and presentation, they pack a punch and are richly meaty with a lingering and resonating finish.

David Lishman works closely with two pig farmers in Yorkshire and buys in whole slaughtered pigs split down the middle. His staff are carefully trained to cut out the jowl (jaw) and cheek which David lovingly refers to as “that nugget of lean but gristly meat”.

His chaps are dry-cured in a “top secret” mixture of sugar, salt, and various spices for over a week, then hot-smoked over a mixture of beech and oak, steamed-cooked, skinned, boned, and pressed into a block. This, he sells, mostly to food service outlets although if you ask nicely, he may sell to consumers.

If you think theirs is not a product in the British Tradition – you’re absolutely right. The recipe comes from a German POW who worked on David’s great-grandfather’s farm and taught the family how to cure them. The tradition has carried on ever since, even transferring to their butcher’s shop when it opened in 1986. And long may it continue.

 

Additional Information

How to make Traditional Bath Chaps.

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