Drive the length of Jersey Turnpike and jump off any exit and there's a very high probability you'll be close to a diner, street cart, or corner store selling something called pork roll. Why are New Jersey eaters crazy about this breakfast meat? Read on for the story behind the obsession.
'pork roll' on Serious Eats
Sometimes this whole writing thing ends up backing me into a culinary corner that only determination, innovation, and a bit of extra mayonnaise can get me out of. Case in point: The Pork Roll Rachel Sandwich.
A Rachel sandwich—hot pastrami on rye with swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Thousand Island dressing—made with fried New Jersey pork roll in place of the pastrami.
When traveling through the rolling corn fields of Eastern Pennsylvania, it's hard to limit the number of stops one can make at this or that roadside farm stand. Thankfully, the Kutztown outpost of Renningers Antiques and Farmers Market kills several birds with one convenient, folksy stone. The market stalls are teeming with Pennsylvania Dutch classics like sauerkraut baked beans, shoo-fly pie, pretzels, horehound candy (who still eats horehound candy?!) and all manner of cured meats.
First, let's define pork roll: a ham-like product made from spiced ground pork emulsified into a log about four inches across, wrapped in cloth, and cooked. Because of its preparation, pork roll doesn't technically fall under the government's umbrella of "ham," which is why ever since 1906, it's been referred to by its current name, pork roll. It's Spam for people who don't want to admit they like Spam, if you know what I mean.
After our favorite breakfast sandwiches in America roundup this morning, many of you were clamoring for some pork roll love. Well, here it is! If you haven't spent much time in New Jersey, it's possible you've never sampled the delicacy that is the Pork Roll Sandwich. What is Pork Roll, exactly? Sort of a cross between Canadian Bacon and Spam.
Pork Roll, if you don't already know, is a processed meat product that has been made in New Jersey since the 1800s. The taste and texture could be described as a cross between Canadian bacon and Spam. It's popular mostly as a breakfast side dish or on a sandwich with egg and cheese. But for some strange reason it's pretty hard to find on a hot dog.