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Jersey Warren
04-28-2006, 10:18 AM
I am surprised this topic has not come up before this. Maybe that's because most of you still live in New Jersey and take the ubiquitous "Taylor ham" found in every diner and supermarket in the state for granted.

I first noticed a difference when I moved to New York City in 1970. Though our local A&P did not have the regular Taylor Pork Roll in the familiar red square box, they did have Taystrips a product no longer made, to my knowledge (Taystrips were simply Taylor Pork Roll shaped into bacon-like strips, similar to Sizzlean.)

A few months after I moved to Massachusetts in 1972, I looked in the meat counter in our supermarket for Taylor Pork Roll. It wasn't there. I searched the store and looked in all the refrigerated cases. Nothing. I asked a store clerk and he looked at me as if I had asked for green cheese from the Moon! He scratched his head. "WHAT kind of pork roll?" he asked. I described it. "Nevah heard of it," he replied, in his New England accent, a puzzled look on his face.

That was the start of my 32-year-long quest to locate a source for Taylor Pork Roll.

Since I am a habitual label reader, I knew the Taylor Provisions company was in Trenton, and I wrote to them. They shipped me a 3-pound pork roll, wrapped in Christmas paper (it was December) as a complimentary gift! They also included order forms so I could order it whenever I wanted. For several years, I would order it by mail and the Taylor company would ship it by UPS to me at my office.

On our twice-yearly visists to New Jersey, we would take a cooler and stock up with pork roll for our return trip. (I would also bring back New Jersey hard rolls and crumb cake, two other Jersey foods impossible to duplicate very far East of the Hudson River, or very far West of the Delaware.

Over the years, I'd occasionally find Taylor Pork Roll in an A&P in New England (A&P is headquartered in Montvale.) But the store never carried it for long. New Englanders did not know what it was, and it was soon discontinued.

When I moved to California in 1989 I was completely cut off from TPR for over two years, since it never made it that far West. Surprisingly, when I moved to Texas in 1992, one supermarket had it at the deli counter, where it sold for $7.99 a pound.

It was not to be found (or heard of) in Wisconsin, either. However, on visits to the Dallas area, it had seemed to catch on there, and we'd bring some back in a cooler. (Boar's Head Provision had started distributing it to stores that carried Boar's Head deli meats.)

Then, in 2004, on our first visit to Crestview, Florida, I went in a Publix supermarket, and lo-and-behold: Taylor Pork Roll in both the little red boxes and the large rolls! Publix is a Florida supermarket chain and they have apparently accommodated all of the N.J. transplants. Which is good, since the Taylor company no longer ships and a company called Porkroll Express charges extremely high shipping charges, making a pork roll about $35.

If you talk to 100 New Jerseyans-in-exile, at least 90 will tell you they miss Taylor Pork Roll. And almost that number will say they miss crumb cake and hard rolls and good pizza.

Back in the 1980s, when I was a contributing editor to Long Beach Island magazine, I contacted the Taylor company (to which I had written so often over the years that I had a personal pen-pal list) about an idea I had to write an article for New Jersey Monthly in which I would nominate Taylor Pork Roll as the official state food of New Jersey.

The Taylor people were very brief, almost curt, in their reply. The said, in effect: "We handle all of our own publicity and we would not be interested."

I still cannot imagine why they would turn down my offer to boost their product and perhaps bring them a special honor. I believe the product deserves the honor for several reasons: It is made in Trenton, the state's capital; it is unique to New Jersey and nothing similar is made anywhere else outside the Garden State; and it has a very long history (going back to the mid-1800s) in the state.

Anyway, this is my pork roll saga. I am very happy to be able to buy it here in Crestview, Florida.:)

Jersey Warren
05-03-2006, 12:42 PM
While Taylor Pork Roll may be the most unique ingredient that New Jerseyans eat for breakfast, my travels across America (including living in 7 states from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Great Lakes to the Gulf) have taught me that the New Jerseyan's idea of breakfast is not to be duplicated anywhere.

A case in point is the annual father-and-son breakfast that my old high school used to hold. When we sat down, there were plates of hard rolls (and butter) and crumb buns on the table. Except for nearby New York, I have found that the idea of eating a buttered hard roll (sometimes called Kaiser or bulkie rolls elsewhere) for breakfast is foreign to most people. (Much less my habit of dunking my buttered hard roll in coffee!) And while, thanks largely to Entenmann's, (headquartered in Totowa, NJ) crumb cake is FINALLY available from coast to coast (I had to do without it during my first ten years out of state) the crumb BUN must be a uniquely New Jersey thing. In fact, I once surveyed my coworkers in Massachusetts and none of them had ever HEARD of a crumb bun!

At our father and son breakfast, they then brought ham steaks, eggs, and home fries. While the first two are found everywhere, New Jersey-style home fries are rarely found elsewhere. New Englanders make "home fries" from potatoes that are diced in little half-inch cubes that come out rather hard, and most other places only have hash browns. Only in New Jersey diners, do you get home fries that are properly cut a quarter- to half-inch thick, and the entire diameter of the potato. And then these potato rounds are piled high on a griddle with chopped green onions, to cook in a hugh pile long enough to get a little crisp, but still retain some softness and moisture.

On every visit back to New Jersey, I go into a diner and order a Taylor ham and egg sandwich on a hard roll, with a side order of home fries. That is my "New Jersey breakfast."

What New Jerseyan has not stopped by a Mom-and-Pop grocery store on Sunday morning, to pick up the Sunday papers and bring home a brown paper bag of hard rolls? The rolls are usually kept in cardboard boxes and are never wrapped in plastic, since that would ruin the crispness of their crusts. I have a special way to enjoy a hard roll, too. I first slice it horizontally (across "the Equator") then butter both the top and the bottom of the roll with real butter, only. I then stick the top and bottom together, and then slice it vertically, producing two half-moon shaped butter sandwiches. These I dunk into my cup of coffee, and the roll promptly soaks up a quarter of the contents of the cup! The combination of roll, butter, poppy seeds, and coffee in my mouth all at once is heaven on Earth!

JerseyDevil
05-03-2006, 01:01 PM
What New Jerseyan has not stopped by a Mom-and-Pop grocery store on Sunday morning, to pick up the Sunday papers and bring home a brown paper bag of hard rolls? The rolls are usually kept in cardboard boxes and are never wrapped in plastic, since that would ruin the crispness of their crusts. I have a special way to enjoy a hard roll, too. I first slice it horizontally (across "the Equator") then butter both the top and the bottom of the roll with real butter, only. I then stick the top and bottom together, and then slice it vertically, producing two half-moon shaped butter sandwiches.
We used to ALWAYS have hard roll and butter at my nan's house when I was growing up. You know New Jersey has REAL bakeries. In Indiana when I lived there, the bakeries only carried donuts, no bread. There is nothing like going into a real bakery and getting your fresh baked bread. I remember when I moved back out here and being at my cousins, we were having spaghetii, so I went down to the corner bakery to get freshly baked italian bread. Thy make it fresh everyday and have it ready at 5:00pm. I could tell I was really back in New Jersey - FINALLY! :)

As a funny thing, when we first moved out to Indiana, my grandmother came out and we were going to be having a "house warming" party. We went to the store to get the rolls - you can't go to the bakery there like I said. We get our order and she feels the rolls and she told the person - "these aren't cooked". They were of course, but basically they have no idea how to make crusty bread. All the bread is the same, whether it's french, italian, bagels or rolls. The only differnce is in it's shape. :p

I havw to confess - never had a Taylor Pork Roll. But then again, I really don't like sandwiches. :)

Jersey Warren
05-03-2006, 03:35 PM
... they [non-New Jerseyans] have no idea how to make crusty bread. All the bread is the same, whether it's french, italian, bagels or rolls. The only differnce is in it's shape. :p

I havw to confess - never had a Taylor Pork Roll. But then again, I really don't like sandwiches. :)

This really makes me laugh! I went through the same process in Massachusetts (which I dubbed: "The land of half-baked bread and half-baked ideas"!) They have something called bulkie rolls, which look like hard rolls, but aren't hard. Whenever I bought them, or Italian bread, or French bread, I'd cook them in the oven some more to get them a little crisp. I used to tell people that Italian and French bread are not supposed to be long, pointy versions of Wonder Bread! They're supposed to have a CRUST that offers some resistence when you bite into it.

If you're adverse to sandwiches and would like to give Taylor Pork Roll a try (after all, it is made in New Jersey's capital) just fry a thick slice of it and use it in place of bacon, sausage, or any other breakfast meat. It tastes sort of like a sweet, smoky ham. (But, then again, if you don't care for ham, you may not like it.)

JerseyDevil
05-03-2006, 03:50 PM
This really makes me laugh! I went through the same process in Massachusetts (which I dubbed: "The land of half-baked bread and half-baked ideas"!) They have something called bulkie rolls, which look like hard rolls, but aren't hard. Whenever I bought them, or Italian bread, or French bread, I'd cook them in the oven some more to get them a little crisp. I used to tell people that Italian and French bread are not supposed to be long, pointy versions of Wonder Bread! They're supposed to have a CRUST that offers some resistence when you bite into it.

This is hilarious - that's what we used to do. We used to bring the bread home, brush some water on it and bake it so it got a crust on it. I also used to tell people there that italian bread isn't supposed to be the same as white bread in a different shape.


If you're adverse to sandwiches and would like to give Taylor Pork Roll a try (after all, it is made in New Jersey's capital) just fry a thick slice of it and use it in place of bacon, sausage, or any other breakfast meat. It tastes sort of like a sweet, smoky ham. (But, then again, if you don't care for ham, you may not like it.)
I might try that. I do like ham, just as long as it's not on bread. :) People think I'm crazy, because I have all these exceptions to the rule - like eating hamburgers. :)

davegering
05-03-2006, 05:18 PM
Taylor porkroll is the best. The stewarts on the corner where i live offers a Luberjack burger hci is a quarter pound burger with 4 slices of Taylor pork roll. Taylor Porkroll its not just for breakfast anymore!!!