Today I give you the fifth instalment in the story of the top ten forgotten British foods, as decided by a competition run in 2006 by the Guild of Fine Food Retailers.
Here is the list, with links to stories to date:
1.‘Eadles’ Bath Chaps
2. Mrs Grieve’s Fish Custard
3. Mrs Langland’s Faggots
4. Grey Squirrel Casserole
5. Rook Pie
6. Rabbit with Prunes
7. Fife Brooth
8. Roman Pie
9. 16th C Pancakes
10. A Grand Sallet
Today it is the turn of faggots. The word has a number of meanings, some with a culinary application. A common early meaning is ‘a bundle of sticks for a fire’ (‘with special reference to the practice of burning heretics alive’), or, by extension, a bundle of something else such as flavouring herbs.
Interestingly, in the eighteenth century, ‘faggots’ could also be ‘orange-Peels turn'd or par'd very thin, in order to be preserv'd (Bradley’s Family Dictionary 1727). I am sure this is not the interpretation listed as one of Britain’s top ten forgotten dishes, but for interest, I give you a recipe from The lady's assistant for regulating and supplying her table (1777) by Charlotte Mason.
Orange Rings and Faggots.
Pare some oranges as thin and as narrow as possible, put the parings into water whilst the rings are preparing, (which is done by cutting the oranges, after they are pared, into as many rings as agreeable) then cut out the pulp from the inside, and put the rings and faggots into boiling water ; boil them till tender, then put them into as much clarified sugar as will cover them, set them by till next day, then boil all together, and set them by till the day after; then drain the syrup, and boil it very smooth, put in the oranges, and give them a boil; the next day boil the syrup till it rises almost up to the top of the pan ; then put the oranges into it, and give them a boil put them into pots to be candied as wanted.
By the nineteenth century ‘faggots’ referred to ‘a sort of cake, roll, or ball, made of chopped liver and 'lights', mixed with gravy, and wrapped in pieces of pig's caul’ – in other words they were awfully similar to haggis, in individual portions. This type of faggot was a popular Victorian street food, sold hot and ready to eat from the premises of pork butchers. Recipes are hard to find in contemporary cookery books, such items for consumption by the urban masses not being commonly prepared in the home. The magnificently reliable Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1870) has come up trumps however, with the following. I hope it is as good as that of Mrs. Langland.
Make a mincemeat of calf’s liver, or if more convenient, pig’s liver and fresh fat pork. Chop very finely one pound and a half of liver with half a pound of fresh fat pork. Season the mince with onion sage, thyme, salt, and pepper. Steam it over boiling water, and throw off all fat. When cold, add a large cupful of bread-crumbs, and three well-beaten eggs; mix all together thoroughly, flavour with nutmeg, and make this into round balls which may be baked in a buttered dish with a small quantity of good gravy, or, as is often done, wrapped separately in a piece of pig’s caul. Either way they should be of a pale brown, and cooked very slowly.
Time: to steam mincemeat, half an hour; to bake, until done a pale brown.
Quotation for the Day.
The food here is terrible, and the portions are too small.