From Leipoldt’s Cellar & Kitchen
by C Louis Leipoldt
When it comes to camping, tame meat – whether mutton or pork – is always at its best in the form of chops. To braai them properly, you need a hot fire, made of leadwood or thorn-tree in the Transvaal, and in the southern parts any wood that makes good coals. Here in the Cape we are privileged to be able to place a layer of rhinoceros bush over the coals, imparting to the chops a uniquely fragrant taste, but this is a refinement lacking at most campsites – instead you can rub the meat with herbs according to taste.
But choose your chops well, and see to it that they are soft and tender. First give them a tap with a clean stone or a piece of wood – not too hard, for you don’t want to break the fibres – you should only bruise them a little to get rid of the stiffness. Salt them – a pinch of fine ginger in the salt is delicious, and some people are very fond of coriander or aniseed. Dry them well – a wet chop will never braai as well as it should.
Then place them on the grill. If you haven’t brought one along, you could improvise with some of Uncle’s wire fencing, but it is generally preferable to take your own along. First grease the grill with some fat, and make sure it is nice and hot before placing the meat on it. Three or four chops can withstand the initial fire-shock together, but pay close attention to them and ensure that you turn them over as soon as they are nicely browned on the one side. When done, serve immediately with or without a lump of butter. If you have such overly civilised implements as knives and forks with you, a lump of butter is recommended, but a chop should really be eaten as King Louis XIV preferred his – with his fingers. His Majesty did that at table, however, not when he was out camping. His darling, Auntie De Maintenon, found it so unbearably rude the way he used to dirty his jacket – the one with the golden fleece on it, nogal – with dripping fat, that she ordered the cook always to serve the king’s chops with a piece of paper lace around the bone. That is how we came to have Cotelette à la Maintenon – mutton chops with frumpled pieces of paper around the bone. The way they are usually served in hotels, there is – if the truth be told – not much difference between the meat and the paper when it comes to taste and juiciness.
Therefore see to it that you camp chops will not suffer any such reproach. They should have good flavour, and be soft and tasty. It is no small matter to achieve all this with a grill, which is why some people prefer to braai them in a pan. I have nothing against that – a chop fried in a pan can be delicious, but it can also be the opposite. It all depends on the way it is done. A proper chop should retain all its juiciness, so the fire should be glowing hot, to scorch the surface of the meat, which should then be quickly roasted right through. The result is a juicy piece of meat that almost melts in your mouth.
What to eat with it? As far as I’m concerned, I can imagine nothing nicer than a piece of white farm bread, well plastered with farm butter, its inside just as soft as the meat should be and with a beautiful golden-brown crust into which your teeth, be they natural or false, can bite with relish. Vegetables and other additions? I know that camp hospitality ensures that these are always at hand, but I consider them superfluous. A good slice of bread and a chop – they go together like husband and wife, and to separate them from each other is an affront and a sin.
29 March 1946