Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Romance of Pork Roll - Culinary Treat Meets Vintage Collectable

Today, we divert. We were charmed by a little vintage cream plastic thimble we came across.

Amongst the collectibles we are selling is this Taylor’s Ham Commemorative Sewing Thimble, for the 100th anniversary 1856-1956. 

..and what, pray tell, is Taylor Ham? Well, it’s sorta ham since it is really a chopped pork roll, but traditional Jerseyites still call it Taylor Ham, after its creator.

 I learned this the hard way while visiting friends this summer in New Jersey, apparently THE hot state sourcing this favorite breakfast meat! I had decided to have a hearty breakfast at the train station waiting for friends to pick me up and wanted a ham and egg sandwich. Seeing “Taylor ham” listed on the menu,  I asked what kind of ham Taylor made and a received laughter from the waitress accompanied by a  “you aren’t from around here, are you?”

Mr. John Taylor, culinary genius
This quasi-ham breakfast meat was developed in, yes, New Jersey,  by John Taylor in 1856 as a secret recipe.

Taylor’s offering was called “Taylor’s Prepare Ham” but the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906 decided that his product did not meet the legal definition of ham and he had to call it a “pork roll”. According to Wikipedia,  in 1910 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.”

How you buy your Taylor Ham
Nowadays, this chopped-up SPAM-like substance is sold in unsliced rolls in up to 3 pound bags or smaller pre-sliced containers.

My waitress suggested I eat “the classic”….a pork roll (aka Taylor ham), cheese and egg sandwich on a roll …ALWAYS a roll! ( My request for whole wheat bread was met with disdain). It is such a classic breakfast sandwich  in New Jersey that if you order a “Jersey breakfast”, this is what you get!
The All-American New Jersey Breakfast of Champions!
It is made always the traditional way: sliced and either grilled or fried and served in several huge slabs on a roll with the requisite egg and American cheese. 

make cuts to keep the slices from curling up
Apparently the trick is to make a few little cuts around the edges so it doesn’t curl up when frying.

Why a sewing thimble was the chosen item to commemorate this culinary wonder is beyond me!

Excuse me while I check my cholesterol.