Bath chaps? So cheeky!
No it’s not an invitation to jump in the hot tub together, I’m talking about a pig’s cheeks. Look at cartoons and pigs are always depicted with chubby cheeks for good reason, there is a lot of fleshy muscle there and it is delicious. If you have a good local butcher then you may occasionally see them on offer but more often than not you will have to ask for them to be ordered but they are now being seen more often in restaurants. Ask for pig cheeks rather than chaps because strictly speaking bath chaps are cured in brine for several weeks before being slowly boiled and served cold like ham.
Beef or ox cheeks are similarly meaty cuts and would be ideal in something like a Figgy Pigs chilli con carne. The Caribbean method of cooking called barbacoa is specifically designed for cooking tougher more collagen rich cuts of meat such as ox cheeks. Cuts of meat or even whole sheep heads are slowly cooked over hot coals in a pit covered with maguey leaves. Does that all sound familiar? It is from barbacoa that our familiar word barbecue is derived. If you have a kettle barbecue then how about firing it up and trying barbecued ox cheeks sometime? Cook using the indirect heat method and perhaps throw on some wood chips for a smoky finish.
In general cheeks contain a lot of collagen which is why this long slow cooking is ideal. The sinews break down over time to produce a flavoursome richness. When barbecued this keeps the meat moist and unctuous. In a stew it enriches the sauce giving both body and flavour. So if a recipe calls for a cut of pork like shoulder then cheeks would be as good, possibly better, and also cheaper. Similarly ox cheeks would substitute well for beef brisket, chuck or shank.
Below are a few recipe suggestions.
Lastly a song and dance 🙂