Before I met my husband, he says he had never eaten scrapple, a porcine delight that crops up in East Coast diners everywhere. Nor had he tried pork roll, a salty, savory log of coarsely ground pork shoulder that’s been around since the late 19th century.
I married him anyway.
Pork roll, or “Taylor Ham” if you’re from north Jersey, is still produced in Trenton by Taylor Provisions Inc. under two brands: Original Taylor and Trenton (a milder version).
Funny thing is, my better half is from West Chester, Pa., where scrapple and pork roll appear as often as peameal bacon in Canada—on or near just about any breakfast food. There’s no sinister reason behind the oversight. His mother is from Long Island and a sausage link kind of girl.
My family, on the other hand, is equal opportunity when it comes to breakfast meats. My mother’s brunch specialty is a cheese strata casserole served with more-than-slightly charred pork roll. The seared slices would curl off the plate despite having a wedge removed for flat grilling. (Hence its other names, “pac man meat,” “notch meat” or “fireman’s badges” when four small wedges are cut out at noon, 3, 6 and 9.)
The charring is easy to do if you wander away from the stove; pork roll’s high fat content leaches a lot of grease that speeds carbonization even over lower heat. I use the Pac-Man method too, but I fry them a little less dark than Mom and blot like hell.
If it tastes too salty, pair sliced pork roll with a toasted English muffin or try a classic Jersey “slider”: pork, melted cheese and a thick tomato slice on a roll or bagel.
Now, whenever I mention scrambled eggs on the weekend, Jim slides me a glance that says, “with pork roll, please?”
Lauren Newkirk Maynard is a Buffalo-based food writer.