Pork roll (also known regionally as Taylor ham) is a pork-based processed meat commonly available in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. It was developed in 1856 by John Taylor of Hamilton Square, New Jersey, and sold as "Taylor's Prepared Ham". Other producers entered the market, and subsequent food labeling regulations required Taylor to designate it as a "pork roll" alongside its competitors. While "Taylor" is technically a brand of pork roll, in regions of North Jersey all brands of pork roll may be referred to colloquially as "Taylor Ham" due to John Taylor branding his original pork roll as Taylor.
Origin and description
While a similar item, packed minced ham, may have been produced at the time of the Battle of Trenton, John Taylor is credited with creating his secret recipe for the product in 1856. George Washington Case, a farmer and butcher from nearby Belle Mead, New Jersey, later 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 it failed to meet the new legal definition of "ham" established by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. Marketed as both "Taylor's Pork Roll" and "Trenton Pork Roll", it saw competition from products with similar names like "Rolled Pork" and "Trenton style Pork Roll". When their makers were sued by Taylor a 1910 legal case ruled that the words "Pork Roll" could not be trademarked.
In the 1910 lawsuit, 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." Larry Olmsted of USA Today has described the taste of the meat as "a cross between Canadian bacon and bacon, less hammy and smoky than Canadian, fattier and saltier than bacon, with a unique texture, both crispy and slightly mushy."
It is typically eaten as part of a sandwich, with popular condiments including pepper, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, lettuce, butter and tomato. It is also incorporated in many other recipes, including a popular breakfast sandwich known in the region as a "Taylor ham, egg and cheese" or "pork roll, egg and cheese." in which fried pork roll is joined with a fried egg and American cheese and served on a hard roll, bagel or English muffin. New Jersey eateries noted for their Jersey Breakfast include Slater's in Middletown, and Starks United in Keansburg.
In popular culture
The Trenton Thunder minor league baseball team hosted their inaugural "Trenton Thunder World Famous Case's Pork Roll Eating Championship" on September 26, 2015. Joey Chestnut won the contest by eating 32 pork roll sandwiches in 10 minutes.
A song called "Pork Roll Egg and Cheese" appears on the album The Pod by Ween, locals of New Hope, Pennsylvania, referring specifically to a sandwich consisting of pork roll, egg and cheese on a kaiser roll. Several other songs by the band such as "Frank" also contain references to pork roll.
On April 14, 2016, Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced an Act in the New Jersey State Legislature designating the Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese sandwich as the New Jersey State Sandwich and supplementing chapter 9A of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes. "An Act designating the Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese sandwich as the New Jersey State Sandwich and supplementing chapter 9A of Title 52 of the Revised Statutes."
On May 15, 2016, President Barack Obama gave a commencement speech at Rutgers University's 250th graduation ceremony in which he referenced the "Taylor Ham vs. pork roll debate", saying, "I come here for a simple reason – to finally settle this pork roll vs. Taylor Ham question...I'm just kidding...There's not much I'm afraid to take on in my final year of office, but I know better than to get in the middle of that debate."
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