Taylor Pork Roll is a ground pork product popular in New Jersey since the mid-1800’s. Sometimes called Taylor ham, it was popular enough in New Jersey to be called “New Jersey Sausage.” Developed in 1856, it was originally a cylindrical, bologna-like tube of meat packaged in cotton, but now comes pre-sliced. It is usually served pan-fried on a sandwich with egg and cheese on a hard roll. It is reminiscent of both spam and bologna, but is not exactly like either of them.
Pork Roll was developed by John Taylor of Trenton, New Jersey, in 1856. Taylor began his career as a grocery store clerk and later worked in the pork and beef packing industry.
He started the Taylor Provision Company in 1888. His processed pork product was originally marketed as Taylor’s Prepared Ham, but the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 caused the company to have to change the name to Taylor’s Pork Roll, as the product did not meat the legal definition of ham. It was also marketed as Trenton Pork Roll.
The product was sold in cotton bags printed in red, and a paper label held on by a rubber band and marketed as . The product today is sold in plastic packaging much like sliced bologna, although large tubes can still be purchased.
In the early 1900’s competitors started selling their own “pork roll” products. They were packaged in much the same way, including a detachable paper label, and called such things as Rolled Pork, Roll of Pork, or Trenton style Pork Roll. Although Taylor Provisions had trademarked the paper label in 1906, they did not hold a trademark on the term “pork roll.” The company sued in 1910, claiming unfair competition and violation of the trade-mark label. The motion was denied as the court held that the term “pork roll” was a common term and not subject to trademark, and that the product and label was not really similar to Taylor’s product in such a way as to cause it to be dishonestly passed off as Taylor’s product.
The Taylor Provision Company, for some time, also operated up to eight sandwich shops along the Jersey Shore, with three in Atlantic City, two in Cape May, and one in Wildwood, Seaside, and Asbury Park. The last Taylor sandwich shop was in Cape May, and closed in the early 1980’s.
Taylor Pork Roll is a New Jersey Staple
Taylor Pork Roll, which is just as likely to be called Taylor Ham by New Jersey natives, used to be ubiquitous on the board walks of Jersey Shore, and is still considered a regional Jersey food, although it can now be found at grocery stores in Maryland and Pennsylvania as well. It is sometimes served in New York.
Although Taylor Pork Roll is a cooked product, it is meant to be heated before eating. Traditionally, this is done by frying but the slices can also be grilled. In New Jersey, wedges are cut out of edges of the slices to keep them from curling up when frying. When several wedges are cut out the result is called a “Fireman’s Badge” and when only one wedge is cut out it is called a “Pacman.” This practice is similar to how people in other parts of the country might fry slices of bologna. When served on an egg and cheese sandwich with a hard roll, it is called a Jersey Breakfast.