Pork Roll (regionally known as Taylor Ham) is a pork-based processed meat originating and commonly available in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. It was developed in 1856 by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey, and sold as "Taylor Ham". Other producers entered the market, and subsequent food labeling regulations required Taylor to designate it as a "pork roll" alongside their competitors.
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 North Jersey, residents continue to use the term Taylor Ham, while South Jersey residents generally use the term Pork Roll, with Central Jersey residents using a mix of the two.
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." Some people compare the modern article's taste and/or texture to Treet, bologna sausage, mild salami, or US-style Canadian bacon.
However, while it has flavor/texture components of each of the above, it is not prepared from a meat emulsion. Thus, it has the grainy consistency of cooked salami or kielbasa rather than that of bologna or hot dogs. In fact, smoked kielbasa might be the closest nationwide comparison. But, pork roll is a bit sweeter, and that extra sugar becomes caramelized when it is fried or grilled, which adds to the final flavor. Also, the tangy variety includes lactic acid starter culture in its preparation, which adds a sour flavor component like some dry cured salami's or pepperoni.
Taylor and Trenton are the brand names for pork roll made by Taylor Provisions, of Trenton, New Jersey. Other companies making pork roll include Case Pork Roll Company and Loeffler's Gourmet, as well as Hatfield Quality Meats of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and Alderfer Premium Meats of Harleysville, Pennsylvania.
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.
Pork Roll is generally sliced and pan-fried or grilled, but can also be microwaved. It is commonly given one to four cuts along its outer edge to prevent the slices from bubbling up in the middle and cooking unevenly.
It is typically eaten as part of a sandwich, with popular condiments including salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, lettuce, and tomato. It is also incorporated in many other recipes, notably a popular breakfast sandwich known in the region as a "Jersey Breakfast", "Taylor Ham, Egg, and Cheese", or "Pork Roll, Egg, and Cheese." In these fried pork roll is joined with a fried egg and American cheese and served on a hard roll or bagel.
Trenton, New Jersey held its Inaugural Pork Roll Festival on May 24, 2014.
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's gave a commencement speech at Rutgers University's 250th graduation ceremony. He opened his commencement speech by addressing the "Taylor ham vs. pork roll debate." To quote, "I come here for a simple reason – to finally settle this pork roll vs. Taylor ham question. (Laughter and applause.) I'm just kidding. (Laughter.) 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."
Pork Roll in the Press
Times of Trenton/NJ.com (May 21, 2014) - Inaugural Trenton Pork Roll Festival Expected to Draw Thousands
Thrillist New York (March 31, 2016) - Taylor Ham (or Pork Roll): What the Iconic Meat Means to Jersey
Times of Trenton/NJ.com (May 21, 2015) - Trenton Mayor Declares 'Pork Roll Day' to Coincide with Saturday Trenton Pork Roll Festivals
- "The History of Pork Roll". Jersey Pork Roll.
- [caseporkroll.com "Case Pork Roll"] Check
- 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
- Taylor Pork Roll
- [caseporkrollnj.com ]
- Pork roll: Where to find indigenous Jersey classic
- Alderfer's Pork Roll Sausage
- Blog entry with description of how to prepare pork roll
- Pork roll recipes Archived September 28, 2003, at the Wayback Machine.
- Recipes from Case's
- "Inaugural Trenton Pork Roll Festival expected to draw thousands". NJ.com. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
- Genovese, Peter (2016-03-24). "Taylor Ham (or Pork Roll): What the Iconic Meat Means to Jersey". thrillist. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
- "Trenton mayor declares 'Pork Roll Day' to coincide with Saturday festivals". NJ.com. Retrieved 2016-05-05.