Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's a Jersey Thing

I'm deviating from my normal food blog containing recipes today to talk about something that is a staple in New Jersey households: Taylor Ham. Or, Taylor Pork Roll. What you call it depends on where in NJ you reside - northern NJ-ers say "Taylor Ham" and southern NJ-ers say "Pork Roll".

It's a Jersey Thing. Now, how can I describe it to you?

It's rolled pork - but it's not ham, not bacon, not Canadian bacon, and not Spam. It's a salty, hammy, bacon-y, porky tasting delicious piece of meat that I miss terribly. To call it Spam would be to imply that it's fatty, which it isn't. To call it bacon would imply that it has smokiness - which it doesn't. It is a mad, flavorful combination of everything that is good from a pig, with salt added to it.

I'm on this rant today about it because my good friend from many years ago, Joanne, sent me a care package containing TWO GIANT ROLLS of the stuff. I'm hoarding one roll in my freezer and I sliced up the second roll this morning and cooked some of it for breakfast.

Normally, people in NJ/NY/PA will eat it on a Kaiser roll with cheese and a fried egg. Some people will also put ketchup on it, but to me that's an abomination. I'd rather taste the ingredients all dancing together on the roll without the ketchup, thanks. You should too, if you are a Taylor Ham Virgin and haven't tried it yet. Then add ketchup later if you really want to put that stuff on your eggs.

People where I reside now in California think I am Taylor Ham Obsessed. Actually, my child does, too. How can I explain my Passion for the Porkiness?

I grew up eating it - it's a childhood memory. Do you remember that scene from the animated movie "Ratatouille" where Remy makes the ratatouille for Anton Ego and he takes one bite and is instantly transported to the farmhouse kitchen of his youth? That's exactly how I feel about Taylor Ham. Great food like this will always give you an out of body experience that transports you somewhere. If it doesn't, it's not worth eating. This is probably why I'm fat, by the way. Waaay too many out of body experiences for my own good.

I picked up the box from my mailbox yesterday and was literally drooling on the way to the car. DD asked me what I was so freaking happy about and I had to tell her it was because this was a giant box of delectable porky goodness and we were going to slice it up and make it last for awhile. She still thinks I'm nuts. And I actually shared two precious slices with her this morning. I AM nuts, I know.

So, to make a proper Taylor Ham sandwich, here is what you need to do:

1) You must find the right roll. I've noticed as I get older, I'm getting more picky about how my food tastes and how it's cooked, or maybe that's just the chef in me coming out. I am disappointed in the rolls out here in the west. You can't find good rolls here. You can find rolls, don't misunderstand me, but the textures are wrong.

Anyway, NJ Kaiser rolls are a wonderful taste experience - a proper one is pretty huge, and has a buttery, flaky crust with poppy seeds baked into it. When you cut into the roll, the inside is a ball of chewy deliciousness. The crust crackles and flakes off when you cut it. I don't know how they do it. I've been trying to duplicate it here for years, and suspect it has to do with the humidity level difference and having a proofer to use when making the dough. I've come close, but I still haven't succeeded in getting it exactly right. I'm seriously considering finding a resource so I can import them.

2) The cheese must be the deli style fresh cheese. None of that processed shit, please, or I'll have to hunt you down and kill you. It must be cheddar cheese, preferably a slice of deli style yellow American. Two slices on the sandwich.

3) Fry the egg over medium - you don't want yolk running all over the place, but if you prefer your eggs like that, go for it. I don't like the mess. Salt and pepper the egg very lightly.

4) In order to cook the Taylor Ham, you need to cut 4 little notches around the edges. If you don't, the center will puff up in the pan and the slices will look like little hammy hats. Which is cute, but then your meat isn't cooking properly. They should be lightly browned.

Assemble the sandwich on said Kaiser roll, slice it in half and serve it hot.

Oh my, a little slice of Heaven.

Now go forth and find yourself some of this stuff. DO IT! DO IT NOW!

1 comment:

  1. i haven't had it in a while....i know blasphemy since im in jersey. but i used to love a taylor ham with american cheese and raw red onions on a kaiser. mmmmm. or just the taylor ham and cheese on a roll.

    your post makes me want to have one now...

    chris bickley