Pork roll

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Two slices of pork roll, frying in a pan

Pork roll[1] is a processed meat commonly available in New Jersey[2] and neighboring states. It was developed in 1856 by John Taylor of Trenton, and sold as "Taylor's Prepared Ham" until 1906.[3] Other producers entered the market, and subsequent food labeling regulations required Taylor to designate it as "pork roll" alongside its competitors. In regions of North and parts of Central Jersey, all brands of pork roll may or may not be referred to colloquially as "Taylor Ham".

Origin[edit]

A 1 lb sack of Taylor Pork Roll, the smallest size un-sliced package available. Smaller in diameter than the typical pre-sliced product.
A typical 6 oz. vacuum-sealed package of sliced pork roll

While a similar item, packed minced ham, may have been produced in the later 1700s,[3] 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, created his own recipe for pork roll in 1870.[4] Case's was reportedly packaged in corn husks.[3]

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.[1][5][6] 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". Of particular note is the "Roll of Pork" produced by Adolph Gobel, the "Sausage King" of Brooklyn.[7] Gobel was sued by Taylor in 1910,[8] but the court ruled that the words "Pork Roll" and "Roll of Pork" could not be trademarked.

A century later, many in North Jersey (and parts of Central Jersey) continue to use the term "Taylor ham".[1]

Description[edit]

Being both a regional specialty and a processed meat with a unique taste, Pork roll has resisted accurate description and is sometimes referred to as a mystery meat.[9]

The 1910 legal opinion[8] which established the generic term "pork roll" described the product 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.

— CHATFIELD, District Judge

Both the "cylindrical cotton sack" and vacuum-sealed sliced forms are widely available in the region. Variations on this, including hot dog sized "pork roll links" [10] may also been seen. For some time, Taylor also made "Taystrips",[11] which was the same kind of meat, but shaped into rectangular strips, similar to bacon or sizzlean.[12]

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."[13]

Each producer maintains their own recipe, however there are generally 2 flavors of the product, Tangy and Mild. Compared to Mild, Tangy has more of a salami-like lactic acid flavor.

Producers[edit]

Companies that make pork roll include Taylor Provisions (USDA EST 256)[14] as Taylor and Trenton, Case Pork Roll (USDA EST 184)[14] as Case's, Spolem Provisions (USDA EST 5421)[14] as Loeffler's Gourmet[15] and Mercer Meats, Clemens Food Group (USDA EST 791)[14] as Hatfield, Leidys (USDA EST 9520)[14] as Leidy's and Alderfer, and Rob-Dave Distributors (USDA EST 2159)[14] as Johnston.[16][17]

Preparation[edit]

A "Jersey Breakfast" of pork roll, egg, and cheese
A sandwich featuring pork roll at a delicatessen in New Jersey

Though the packages commonly suggest barbecuing or grilling the product, pork roll is most often prepared by frying slices in a pan or on a griddle. No oil or butter is necessary. Slices of pork roll naturally curl up into a cup shape as they are heated. To make the slices lay flat, a single radial cut (Pac-Man style) or 4 four inward cuts (fireman's badge style) are commonly made, leading to distinctive shapes once cooked.[18] The product is ready once it is hot and a bit of crispiness has developed.

Pork roll is typically eaten as part of a sandwich and frequently paired with egg and/or cheese. A popular breakfast sandwich in the region is the "Taylor ham, egg and cheese"[19] or "pork roll, egg and cheese"[20] in which fried pork roll is joined with a fried (or scrambled) egg and American cheese and served on a hard roll, bagel or English muffin.[13][19][20] New Jersey eateries noted for their Jersey Breakfast include Slater's in Middletown, and Starks United in Keansburg.[21] Popular condiments include black pepper, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, lettuce, and tomato.

It is also incorporated in many other recipes,[22] such as the "Jersey Burger",[23][24] a Pork Roll Monte Cristo,[18] or a variation on deviled eggs.[25]

In popular culture[edit]

Many people from New Jersey have strong feelings for the product, associating it with fond memories of family, youth, and visits to the Jersey Shore.[26]

The first of several Pork Roll Festivals was held in Trenton on May 24, 2014.[27] At the inaugural festival, hundreds of pounds of pork roll were served to thousands of visitors and a Miss Pork Roll Queen was crowned.[28] The following year, the organizers split up and held competing festivals.[29] The 7th annual Pork Roll festival was scheduled for 2020,[30] but was delayed and ultimately cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.[31]

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.[32] On Fridays in 2018, the team rebranded itself as "Thunder Pork Roll"[33] with pork roll themed uniforms and merchandise.[34]

Pork roll, Egg & Cheese race at a Blue Claws game

The Jersey Shore BlueClaws minor league baseball team holds a Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese Race at the end of the fourth inning of every home game.[35]

Several songs by the band Ween contain references to pork roll, including "Frank" and "Pork Roll Egg and Cheese" from their 1991 album The Pod. The band is from nearby New Hope, Pennsylvania.

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.[36] The bill did not make it out of committee.[37]

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."[38]

Episode 9 from Season 7 of the television program Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations[39] featured pork roll as a Jersey Shore specialty.

On October 28, 2020, Montana gubernatorial candidate Mike Cooney released a video of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie on the app Cameo requesting Cooney's opponent return to New Jersey. Christie, who had been tricked into recording the video by a Cooney aide, invoked pork rolls.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "The History of Pork Roll". JerseyPorkRoll.com. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  2. ^ Hatala, Greg (September 9, 2013). "Made in Jersey: Pork roll or Taylor ham, it's a favorite Garden State breakfast food". NJ.com.
  3. ^ a b c Hyman, Vicki (April 16, 2009). "How New Jersey Saved Civilization: Taylor Ham". NJ.com.
  4. ^ About Case Pork Roll
  5. ^ Rojas, Christina (May 12, 2016). "Salty pork roll vs. Taylor Ham debate may rest in politicians' hands". NJ.com.
  6. ^ Correa, Cynthia (July 16, 2015). "All About Pork Roll, New Jersey's Own Cheap Eat". Eater.
  7. ^ The Sausage King of Brooklyn, Part 1
  8. ^ a b Taylor Provision Co. v. Gobel, 180 F. 938 (United States Circuit Court for the Eastern District of New York Aug. 15, 1910) ("The words “Pork Roll” or “Roll of Pork,” not registered, could not be the subject of a valid trade-mark").
  9. ^ Time Out - Jersey City - What's it called: Taylor ham or pork roll?
  10. ^ Edelstein, Jeff (May 5, 2015). "When it comes to pork roll, there's always something new to learn". The Trentonian. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  11. ^ USPTO trademark - TAYSTRIPS
  12. ^ Message board post discussing Taystrips and efforts to acquire pork roll from afar
  13. ^ a b Olmsted, Larry (May 12, 2016). "Taylor ham: A New Jersey breakfast obsession". USA Today.
  14. ^ a b c d e f FSIS Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory - By Est. Number
  15. ^ Tarabour, Brooke (December 15, 2009). "Pork roll: Where to find indigenous Jersey classic". NJ.com
  16. ^ Donohue, Brian (May 27, 2016). "Is the best pork roll in N.J. a brand you've never heard of? (VIDEO)". NJ.com.
  17. ^ "Two prominent local meat processors will merge". The Reporter (Denver, Colorado). July 8, 2008.
  18. ^ a b Passionate about pork roll - learning about the New Jersey staple
  19. ^ a b Genovese, Peter (March 31, 2016). "Pork Roll: What the Iconic Meat Means to Jersey". Thrillist New York.
  20. ^ a b Sadeghin, Farideh (April 8, 2016). "New Jersey-Style Pork Roll Breakfast Sandwiches". Saveur.
  21. ^ Griesemer, Sarah (July 19, 2017). "Pork roll and New Jersey: A perfect pair". Asbury Park Press.
  22. ^ "Recipes". Pork Roll Xpress, 1999 (Port Murray, New Jersey). Archived September 28, 2003, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Courier Post - Recipe: Jersey Burger
  24. ^ Simple and Savory -Recipe: Jersey Burger with Cheese
  25. ^ Grilling 24x7 - Recipe: Taylor Pork Roll Deviled Eggs
  26. ^ Taylor Ham Pork Roll Memories
  27. ^ Pizzi, Jenna (May 21, 2014). "Inaugural Trenton Pork Roll Festival expected to draw thousands". The Times. NJ.com.
  28. ^ Inaugural Trenton Pork Roll Festival draws large crowd
  29. ^ Pork Roll Fest turns into pork roll feud in Trenton
  30. ^ porkrollfestival.com
  31. ^ UPDATE: Trenton Pork Roll Festival (scheduled for tomorrow) canceled
  32. ^ Cuccagna, Rich (September 26, 2015). "Joey Chestnut wins Trenton pork roll eating contest". NJ.com.
  33. ^ Trenton Thunder renaming themselves the Trenton Pork Roll this summer
  34. ^ Pork roll collection at the official Thunder team store
  35. ^ "Case's Pork Roll Egg & Cheese Race (End of the 4th inning)". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  36. ^ "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." Eustace, Tim (April 14, 2016). "Designates Taylor Ham, egg, and cheese as New Jersey State Sandwich.". New Jersey General Assembly No. 3667, 217th LEGISLATURE, State of New Jersey.
  37. ^ NJ 2016 A3667 Status
  38. ^ Mueller, Mark (May 15, 2016). "Full text of President Obama's speech at Rutgers commencement". NJ.com.
  39. ^ Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations Episodes - Season 7
  40. ^ Bromwich, Jonah Engel; Ezra, Marcus (29 October 2020). "Chris Christie Makes Cameo Video For Montana Democrat (By Mistake)". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 October 2020.

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