As December dawns and the radio starts to blast out music with a festive feel to it we know that Christmas is not far away. The Pogues ‘Fairy Tale of New York’ contains the not so cheery line of “You scumbag you maggot you cheap lousy faggot” which we would presume to have homosexual connotations. But not so in the UK where they would be thinking along the lines of an offal meatball.
A faggot by definition is a bundle of ash tree sticks tied up with string which stems from Nordic mythology but in parts of the UK it refers to ground up pig parts tied up with caul. Caul is the see through lacy fatty membrane which surrounds the pig’s stomach and entrails which prevents the meat from drying out while being cooked. Many recipes for faggots are available but they mainly include pig’s liver, heart and lungs, pork belly, onions, bacon and herbs. All of the ingredients are ground up and tied up in caul to be baked in the oven.
In parts of the Midlands, often referred to as the Black Country, they are served with gravy, mashed potato and processed dried peas (pronounced ‘pays’). The Black Country was so called as it was the birthplace of the industrial revolution with many foundries and chimneys pumping out black smoke. The dried marrowfat peas are first soaked in water for 12 hours before being boiled which renders them to soften and turn into what are known as mushy peas. In Wales they are known as ffagod, whereas some of the northern counties refer to them as savory ducks.
But then we also have a version of our own British faggots referred to as Pork Scrapple. Scrapple is of Pennsylvania Dutch origin; it was first made by the early German settlers in that state. It consists of chopped or ground pieces of pork liver, heart, skin and any other left over pieces, which are blended with corn meal. After cooking they are served sliced and fried. Sometimes this dish is called ''panhaus'' or ''panhaas'' which mean pan cooked rabbit in German where the dish was originally made with rabbit as the main ingredient.
Neither faggot nor scrapple sound particularly appetizing for what many people agree are very tasty dishes. Perhaps with new names they could adopt a new image and they could climb the culinary popularity ladder, any suggestions?
Photos courtesy of flickr - Bookishinorthpark, Alexthpink.
'In the Black Country' - Constantin Meunier.