Lincolnshire Stuffed Chine, Lincolnshire
More British food legends
Stuffed chine is yet another example of how to get a tasty product from a lesser cut of meat. This dish is a speciality of Lincolnshire , particularly Boston.
The chine is the pig’s backbone. For this dish the backbone is cut with some muscle attached either side, and the resulting joint wet cured for a good 10 days or longer – this in part will depend on the size of the joint, which can vary between 6lb up to a couple of stone. The cure is similar to what would be expected for bacon: salt, saltpetre (which gives the meat a characteristic pink tinge) sugar, molasses or black treacle, various spices, of which mace seems to be one, all together mixed with beer and water.
After the wet cure the joint is salted for a week – this was a peasant dish often made to keep over the winter, when all meat was precious and nothing could be thrown away. It became something of a celebratory dish, enjoyed at May hiring fairs and for weddings and christenings. The French poet Verlaine is said to have become enamoured of it when he spent a year teaching near Boston.
The cured meat is slashed at right angles to the spine, to give pockets or deep cuts in which the stuffing can be made. The usual stuffing is parsley, though in keeping with the make-do nature of the product other ingredients would be used, and still are, as they came to hand and according to the season: lettuce, nettles, onion, sage, leek greens, thyme, marjoram, onion tops. The stuffed joint is rolled in a cloth (in days gone by it may have been encased in a simple paste to be thrown away when it had done its job), then simmered for several hours according to its size – four hours would be about average. Some cooks advocate leaving the meat to cool in the cooking liquor, others remove it to cool once drained.
The end product of all this labour is eaten cold, carved in thin slices, the green of the stuffing alternating with the pink meat. It is traditional to serve the stuffed chine with a dash of vinegar to cut through the fat and the very green flavour of the stuffing