Ever eat a Taylor ham? My wife turned me on to them a few years ago and they are the best-tasting sausages you have never heard of. Salami-sized, but softly textured, the name is a misnomer, but somewhat accurate. The ham is a ground, cured pork sausage that is reminiscent of ham, but only if it mated with Lebanon bologna. You slice it a quarter inch thick, make a few notches in the sides so that it doesn’t curl up when cooking, and fry it. We like little dark brown scorches all over ours. And if you know what you are doing you throw it on a hard Kaiser roll with American cheese and a pair of fried eggs. Locals back east call that a “triple bypass.” My wife likes the ham crispy, on an English muffin or plain, and dunks hers in ketchup, south Jersey style. I do mine piled high on toast.
The "Original Taylor Ham” comes from the Taylor Provision Company of Trenton, founded by John B. Taylor. Taylor, born in 1837, founded the Taylor Provisions Co., the Taylor Opera House, and everything else with T-a-y-l-o-r in it. His name is legend in New Jersey and his pork roll, branded “Taylor Ham,” is a quintessential local foodstuff. For centuries the hickory smoked pork roll has been a favorite meat product in New Jersey homes. The same secret seasoning is used today, with the modern processes of tendering, filtered smoking, and flavor sealing. Taylor pork rolls were introduced in the later 1800s, but many experts think the pork roll might have been in existence during the Revolutionary War. Historians point to documents touting a salted, cured ham that came in “roll” so the Continental Army could easily transport it.
In our house we buy them five at a time from the Jersey-based website Pork Roll Xpress and dole them out to friends and family. Many of Rishia’s relatives on her dad’s side have New Jersey connections and the smile on my brother-in-law's face every time he gets a Taylor ham is super-sized. No less a legendary Jersey guy than Jon Bon Jovi recently said, “The roadside diner right off the circle in Wall Township is a fabulous greasy spoon, one of the real silver-bullet diners. Taylor ham—a pork roll—is a Jersey fixture. Taylor ham with cheese on a hard roll is love. The big question is: ketchup or mustard? Everyone in north Jersey puts on mustard, everyone in the south, ketchup. I’m a mustard guy myself. A Cherry Coke is wonderful with chipped ice. Diners are made for Sunday mornings or the day after when you need grease to soak up everything you did the night before. Then you order breakfast and lunch at the same time. That’s the greatest. It cures a hangover.”
Who knew JBJ had such a soft spot for edibles? I take back everything I ever said about him.