The Origins of Pork Roll: A Delicacy Born in New Jersey’s History

From its humble beginnings to its loyal following, the story of pork roll, also known as Taylor Ham, is steeped in the history of New Jersey. While the exact origins of pork roll are shrouded in uncertainty, there are intriguing tales that tie this beloved breakfast meat to the Revolutionary War.

Legend has it that during the Battle of Trenton, the Continental Army relied on a durable food source that could withstand long journeys. Enter pork roll, a salted and cured ham that soldiers rolled and carried with them into battle. If this tale holds true, then the roots of pork roll can be traced back to the late 18th century.

However, the official history of Taylor Ham, as it later came to be called in North Jersey, begins in 1856. John Taylor, a Trenton native, was the visionary behind this savory creation. Initially, Taylor sold his pork product under the Taylor Ham name, which still persists today in parts of North Jersey. Meanwhile, farmer and butcher George Washington Case developed his own pork roll recipe in 1870, packaging it in corn husks.

Yet, despite North Jersey’s insistence on calling it Taylor Ham, a significant change occurred when the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906. Unfortunately for Taylor, his product no longer met the legal definition of ham. To comply with the new regulations, Taylor Ham had to be rebranded as pork roll. However, in North Jersey, the old name remained firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of its residents.

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Taylor’s desire to protect his product’s unique identity led him to sue competitors who sold similar items, using names like “rolled pork” or “Trenton style Pork Roll.” However, his efforts fell short when a judge ruled that the term “pork roll” could not be trademarked.

Despite the ongoing debate over its name, one thing that all New Jerseyans can agree on is the undeniable appeal of a Taylor Ham/pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwich. This regional delicacy has captured the imagination and taste buds of the state’s residents. In fact, on April 14, 2015, Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced legislation to declare this iconic sandwich the official state sandwich of New Jersey. Even though the name controversy persists, New Jerseyans take pride in claiming this unique culinary creation as their own.

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