'The Pork Roll Cookbook' celebrates recipes, history of quintessential Jersey meat (2024)

'The Pork Roll Cookbook' celebrates recipes, history of quintessential Jersey meat (1)

New Jersey's love affair with pork roll began more than a century and a half ago, and shows no signs of letting up.

If anything, the passion for this mildly spiced pork product continues to grow dramatically, and has reached the point where it earned its own annual festival, and now its own cookbook.

"The Pork Roll Cookbook" (Cider Mill Press, $16.95) by Times of Trenton writer Jenna Pizzi with recipes contributed by me and several local chefs, rolled off the presses late last month. It is being sold online and through retailers including Barnes & Noble and WalMart.

The book details the history of pork roll, which originated in Trenton and continues to be made there by Taylor Provision Company and Case's Pork Roll, its availability in the Mid-Atlantic States, and its status as the quintessential Jersey food.

Pizzi, who covers Trenton for The Times of Trenton, said writing the text for the book was a lot of fun. "I got to talk to a lot of good people who are enthusiastic about pork roll."

Nostalgia plays a large part in that enthusiasm, she said. "It has to remind people of something," she said. "They have a childhood attachment to it."

A Jersey girl herself, Pizzi said she only occasionally ate pork roll while growing up, but has learned to appreciate it since writing the book.

Pizzi writes extensively about the origin of pork roll in a time before refrigeration, and the career of John Taylor, who is credited with creating the original recipe. What is not revealed in the book is the recipe for pork roll itself, which both Taylor and Case's keep tightly under wraps. A combination of pork and secret spices, it is hickory-smoked for added flavor. A two-ounce portion of Taylor pork roll has 180 calories, with 140 of those from fat. A preserved meat, it has a sodium content of 580 mg per serving.

The tried-and-true way of eating pork roll is fried, served on a roll with cheese melted on top, and maybe an egg if it's breakfast time. But ever since the first pork roll was sold, fans have been finding other ways to use their favorite meat.

Many of those showed up at the Pork Roll Festival (porkrollfestival.com) held in May at Trenton Social Bar and Restaurant. Owner TC Nelson contributed his own recipes to the event, and one appears in the book.

Although pork roll is not traditionally on the menu at the Brothers Moon Restaurant in Hopewell Borough, the chefs there took time to create recipes to contribute to the cookbook. Here are two of their creations:

Trenton-Style Spaghetti a la Carbonara

Serves 4 to 6

Randy Forrester, chef de cuisine at the Brothers Moon Restaurant, created this Jersey-style version of a traditional Italian favorite.

1 pound spaghetti
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces pork roll, frozen and then grated, or cut into 1/8-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (3 ounces), plus more for serving
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper

1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, cheese and reserved cooking water.

3. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add half of the pork roll and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.

4. Add the hot spaghetti to the skillet. Pull the skillet off the heat, tossing, until coated. Slowly add the reserved pasta cooking water, beaten egg yolks and cheese. Toss until coated with a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Add the nutmeg; season with pepper. Transfer to bowls, top with the remaining grated pork roll and serve, passing extra Parmesan.

Pork Roll Monte Cristo Sandwich

Makes 6 sandwiches

The monte cristo is a variation of the French croque-monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. This is yet another variation, shared by Will Mooney, executive chef and owner of the Brothers Moon Restaurant.

3 tablespoons butter
12 slices pork roll
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
6 slices Muenster cheese, cut in half
12 slices white bread

1. Cook pork roll slices until golden brown. Layer cheese and pork roll on 6 slices bread; cover with remaining slices bread.

2. In bowl, mix eggs and milk; quickly dip both sides of sandwiches into egg mixture. On griddle or in skillet, saute sandwiches in butter over medium heat until cheese is melted and both sides are browned.

In the kitchen farm

If you have always wanted to try your hand at churning butter or gathering eggs from a henhouse, you could make your way to Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Township on Saturday for the annual "Winter Kitchen" event.

Visitors will be invited into the circa 1900 farmhouse kitchen, where they can help with the chores of preparing foods and baking using a wood-burning stove. The hands-on event will include making noontime "dinner" recipes for the help using original recipes from the Hopewell Valley area.

Winter Kitchen is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the farm, located outside Lambertville. See the website howellfarm.org for information.

Gourmet foods in Somerset

More than 25 gourmet food artisans will be among the 250 participants at the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival March 13 to 15 at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset.

Purveyors will offer handmade chocolates, wine-based products, nuts, waffles, pickles, salsas, seafood and cheese, to name a few. For information see the website sugarloafcrafts.com/festivals/somerset/spring/

Bacon and beer in Bucks

Good news for bacon lovers - and there are many - the Bucks Bacon & Beer event is back.

Dozens of bacon purveyors will offer their wares from noon to 4 p.m. March 22 at the event at Triumph Brewing Company in New Hope, Pa.

There will be butchers, charcuteriers, small farmers, artisanal bacon and sausage producers, local cheesemakers and artisanal food producers bacon in ways you probably never imagined.

Triumph will offer a specially brewed Rauchbier "smoked" beer for the occasion. Admission includes two pints of Triumph beer, a commemorative glass and all the bacon you can eat.

Local participants include Brick Farm Market in Hopewell Borough, which will serve samples of charcuterie and bacon from pasture-raised pigs; Cherry Grove Dairy Farm & Creamery in Lawrence, which will offer artisanal cheese and prok products, and Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse of Milford, which will serve artisanal cheese and wood-fired oven bread.

See the buckscountytaste.com website for information and tickets, which are $40 per person for noon entry, and $35 per person for 2 p.m. entry. You must be 21 years or older to attend.

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'The Pork Roll Cookbook' celebrates recipes, history of quintessential Jersey meat (2024)


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