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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 the West of England, especially west Wiltshire, spreading out 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, although this appears to be a calzone- or pasty-like dish, with an outer wrapper of caul, covering a filling of mixed pork offal. This was in London.
Commonly, the faggot consists of pork liver and heart minced, wrapped in bacon, with onion and breadcrumbs. Often, the faggot should be cooked in a crock, with gravy and served with peas and mashed potato. The mixture is shaped in the hand into little balls, wrapped round 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. These are then baked in the oven and are usually served cold.
The dish was most popular during the rationing in World War II but has become less popular 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 is a common combination 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 (sometimes secret) recipe.
Pictures of the product are a popular joke in some Western countries because of additional meanings of the name. In 2004 a radio advert by 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.