Pork roll (regionally known as Taylor Ham) is a type of breakfast meat originating and commonly available in and around New Jersey and select areas of Philadelphia. The product, as it is made today, was developed in 1856 by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey, though several firms produce their own versions.
Origin and description
Taylor kept the recipe for the product he created in 1856 secret. George Washington Case, a farmer and butcher from nearby Belle Mead, New Jersey, created his own recipe for pork roll in 1870. Case's was reportedly packaged in corn husks.
Taylor originally called his product "Taylor's Prepared Ham", but was forced to change the name after the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed, since the product did not meet the new legal definition of "ham". The new name was "Pork Roll" and it was marketed as both "Taylor's Pork Roll" and "Trenton Pork Roll". Competitors marketed products with similar names like "Rolled Pork" and "Trenton style Pork Roll" and were sued by Taylor. A 1910 legal case ruled that the words "Pork Roll" could not be trademarked. In North Jersey, residents continue to use the term Taylor Ham.
Some people compare the taste and/or texture to SPAM, Treet, bologna, mild salami, smoked summer sausage, or US-style Canadian bacon. In 1910 it was described as "a food article made of pork, packed in a cylindrical cotton sack or bag in such form that it could be quickly prepared for cooking by slicing without removal from the bag."
Pork roll is generally sold in 1, 1.5, and 3 lb. unsliced rolls packed in cotton bag, as well as 6 oz. boxes containing 4, 6, or 8 slices. Larger rolls and packages are available for food service customers. It is also sold at delicatessens, diners, lunch stands and food trucks in the region. It has also been a staple in public school cafeterias in New Jersey.
The product is generally eaten sliced and pan-fried or grilled, but can also be prepared in the microwave. A common practice is to slice four cuts from the outer edges inwards about 3/4 inch to an inch towards the center, evenly spaced around the circumference. These cuts prevent the pork roll from curling up in the middle, which causes it to cook unevenly. With these cuts, the cooked slices have become known by many different names such as fireman's badges or Pac-Man bacon. More recently a "swatch rocket", touted as "New Jersey's answer to the Philly Cheesesteak", has been described as grilled Taylor ham sliced longitudinally and served on a soft hoagie or frankfurter roll with Dijon mustard, melted Muenster cheese, and optional relish.
Though typically eaten as part of a sandwich, pork roll can also be used in many other recipes. Depending on the type of sandwich and the location within the region, popular condiments and toppings include salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, lettuce, and tomato.
A popular breakfast sandwich in the region made with pork roll is known as the Jersey Breakfast, a "Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese" or a "Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese." A Jersey Breakfast always contains pork roll, typically served with American cheese on a hard roll or on a bagel. It is a staple of many delis, diners, bakeries, and breakfast spots in New Jersey. In Philadelphia, the hard roll is commonly replaced with the locally ubiquitous "long roll" used for hoagies and cheesesteaks.
Taylor and Trenton are the brand names for pork roll made by Taylor Provisions, of Trenton, New Jersey. Other companies making pork roll include crosstown rivals Case Pork Roll Company and Loeffler's Gourmet, as well as Hatfield Quality Meats of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and Alderfer Premium Meats of Harleysville, Pennsylvania. Godshall's Quality Meats of Telford, PA even offers a healthy Turkey alternative, called Turk-Roll.
In popular culture
- "The History of Pork Roll". Jersey Pork Roll.
- Greg Hatala. "Made in Jersey: Pork roll or Taylor ham, it's a favorite Garden State breakfast food". nj.com.
- How New Jersey Saved Civilization: Taylor Ham
- 1910 Court case regarding competitor's product name
- Blog entry with description of how to prepare Taylor ham
- Pork roll recipes[dead link]
- Recipes from Case's
- Taylor Pork Roll
- Case Pork Roll Company
- Pork roll: Where to find indigenous Jersey classic
- Alderfer's Pork Roll