Taylor Ham is the oldest processed food in the world. In the 1850s a man by the name of James Taylor found a way to preserve pork scraps. He put them in a cotton sack with spices and cured it so all it needed was to be heated, the original “heat and eat” meat, even over Spam. In the early 1900s the US Government cited that something can only be called ham if it is from the leg of the pig. Since then Taylor dropped the word from the label. Since they could not trademark the name pork roll, imitators began producing it.
Pork Roll or Taylor Ham, it is unique to New Jersey and it is the only state that produces it. People in North Jersey call it Taylor Ham, those in South Jersey call it pork roll, and it can become quite a heated debate just like “is it sauce or gravy”? Either way people try to describe it as something like spiced ham, Jersey style bacon, US Canadian bacon, but no description is accurate because it is unique and its own.
While Taylor Ham is “heat and eat”, it is best when its grilled and well done so all the sugar and spices come to the surface and become caramelized and making it tangy, slightly sweet, but always delicious. Because it is round it tends to curl up while cooking, so a slit on the edges prevents that.
It is a staple in New Jersey diners and sandwich shops. The most popular way to prepare it is a “THEC”, a Taylor Ham, egg and cheese sandwich on which is served on a Kaiser roll. It is also one of the meat served with a side of eggs like bacon, Canadian bacon or sausage.