Today is Trinity Sunday, and eighty years ago the Sunderland Daily Echo reported that in North East Lincolnshire it was traditional on this day to eat chine.
I’ve been going up to Lincolnshire regularly now for many years and on one of the earlier occasions I went into a butcher in a county town and saw an unexpectedly exotic-looking offering – rosy-pink ham cut with an intriguing green paste. Essentially it’s cured pork lined with parsley.
Of course the pork was traditionally cured to keep the Lincoln locals in meat through the winter, but they are thrifty souls and there was usually some over as spring dawned, so mixing in some fresh parsley was a way of refreshing by then overfamiliar supplies. But it was also a way to celebrate, not just Trinity Sunday, but also christenings, and the May hiring fare, where temporary farm workers might find employment for the summer.
The racy French poet Verlaine spent a year as a schoolmaster just north of Boston (the original one, in Lincolnshire) and developed a real taste for chine. In addition to parsley, his ham was stuffed with leeks, spring onions, lettuce, raspberry leaves, thyme and marjoram.
The green-marbled chine I bought didn’t just look the business – it tasted the business also. Unfortunately it is now much more difficult to find – although you can still buy it from Curtis of Lincoln and Lakings of Louth.
But you can also make it, and it is not too difficult. The only problem is that the traditional cut is massive – a square block cut from between the shoulder blades – and you need a massive amount of parsley, according to Jane Grigson writing in The Observer in 1984, “enough to fill a baby’s bath”.
So the solution is to use dry cured collar bacon. This is also cut from the shoulder and has a lot of flavour due to being darker, marbled meat.
Locals eat it with vinegar, but I think it goes very well with new potatoes and a savoury apricot salad. Leftovers go well in sandwiches.
For about eight
- 5 Kg/ 3.5 lbs collar bacon
- 400g/14 oz flatleaved parsley (this has a better flavour than curly), or a mixture of parsley, spring onions, raspberry leaves, thyme and marjoram, with parsley remaining at least three quarters of the mix.
- Put the joint on a carving board, rind-side down
- Chop up the parsley and the other leaves – it may be quicker to do this in a blender, but leave the mix as roughly cut as you can if you do.
- Make five or six deep cuts down into the fat taking care not to cut right through the joint. The cuts should be a couple of cm (1”) or so apart.
- Stuff with the parsley mix, then tie with string and wrap tightly in a muslin.
- Simmer gently in a large saucepan of boiling (NOT salted) water for a couple of hours.
- Take it out of the water and leave, still with its enveloping muslin, until cool.
- Slice thinly.