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Faggots are a traditional dish in the UK, especially South and Mid Wales and the Midlands of England. It is made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork. A faggot is traditionally made from pig's heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavouring and sometimes bread crumbs.
Faggots originated as a traditional cheap food of ordinary country people in Western England, particularly west Wiltshire. Their popularity spread from there, especially to South Wales in the mid-nineteenth century, when many agricultural workers left the land to work in the rapidly expanding industry and mines of that area. Faggots are also known as "ducks" in the Midlands, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Lancashire, often as "savoury ducks."
The first use in print cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1851, from Thomas Mayhew, where he describes a dish identical to the modern product with chopped liver and lights in an outer wrapper of caul. This was in London.
Commonly, the faggot consists of minced pork liver and heart, wrapped in bacon, with onion and breadcrumbs. Often, the faggot is cooked in a crock with gravy and served with peas and mashed potato. The mixture is shaped by hand into small balls, wrapped with caul fat (the omentum membrane from the pig's abdomen), and baked.
Another variation of faggot is Pig's fry wrapped in pig's caul: the pig's fry and boiled onions are minced (ground) together, then mixed with breadcrumbs or cold boiled potatoes, seasoned with sage, mixed herbs and pepper, all beaten together and then wrapped in small pieces of caul to form a ball. They are then baked in the oven and are usually served cold.
The dish gained in popularity during the rationing in World War II, though its popularity has declined in recent years. Faggots are often homemade and are to be found in traditional butchers' shops and market stalls, though larger supermarkets generally stock the Mr Brain's brand of mass-produced faggot. This is a frozen food product available in Britain, made of liver and onions rolled into meatballs and served in a sauce. These differ significantly from traditional faggots, which have a coarser texture and contain much less water.
A popular dish is faggots and peas. This combination is common in the Black Country area of the West Midlands. It is still common to see small butchers' shops in the area selling faggots cheaply, made to their own recipe.
The use of the word "faggot" has caused controversy due to its additional meaning a slang term for a homosexual man in American English. In 2004, a radio commercial for the UK supermarket chain Somerfield, in which an American man rejects his wife's suggested dinner saying "I've got nothing against faggots, I just don't fancy them" was found to have breached the Advertising and Sponsorship Code and was banned by the industry regulator Ofcom. In November 2013, it was reported that British Facebook users had been blocked temporarily for using the word, in its culinary sense, on the website. Facebook said that the word had been "misinterpreted."