Pork roll ice cream takes New Jersey favorite around the world
What do you get when you combine an ice cream entrepreneur trained in Delaware with a classic New Jersey breakfast meat? A viral hit that's getting global attention.Listen 4:28
Nestled among the rolling hills in the northwest corner of New Jersey sits Windy Brow Farms. This is where a University of Delaware graduate has created an unusual, some would say odd, maybe bizarre ice cream flavor.
Jake Hunt stays very busy these days thanks to his curious concoction that puts pieces of pork roll meat and French toast in ice cream form. For the unfamiliar, pork roll, is best described as a cross between ham and Canadian bacon. It’s even celebrated with its own festival in Trenton. Pork roll has been called “bacon’s naughty little cousin.”
Pork roll is also sometimes called by the brand name Taylor Ham. Debate over its rightful name can get heated with South Jerseyans calling it pork roll, and people in North Jersey insisting on the Taylor Ham name. And while it’s enjoyed at breakfast and other meal times, it’s never been considered a “dessert.”
That is until Hunt’s inspired creation was released earlier this year. “It starts with taking Taylor Ham that we chop up into slices,” Hunt said as he mixed pieces of pork roll with bite-sized portions of homemade French toast and cinnamon and sugar. “Mix that with more maple syrup, bring it all together, make a maple ice cream base and then it just gets swirled in and freezes for 12 hours.”
The response has been a bit overwhelming for Hunt. “It’s been an interesting ride so far. I didn’t think something so crazy as this was going to take as wild of a turn as it has. I think we’ve been surprised by the amount of people that have come out and tried it.”
After its debut, the creation grabbed headlines around the world. Culinary website Eater.com called it “the ultimate New Jersey delicacy.” Vice.com was less impressed, calling pork roll ice cream “an abomination.”
“There’s a lot of people that are doing some really interesting, creative, strange things with ice cream out there, and I think as tastes change and perception changes, people are going to be more open to that kind of thing,” Hunt said.
The ice cream is part of Windy Brow Farms’ “Only in Jersey” collection of flavors debuting this summer to celebrate the creamery’s five year anniversary. Hunt took his sweet-savory flavor to Trenton’s Pork Roll festival to give fans a taste.
“It’s different and it tastes really good,” said Glen Davis of South River. “It could be deceiving because it’s pork roll and ice cream mixed together but I’m going to tell you it tastes really good.” Mike from Gloucester loved it, too. “It’s fantastic … There’s nothing the pork roll doesn’t improve.”
Hunt was confident his odd flavor combination worked in the ice cream, but he wasn’t 100 percent sure how it would be received. “I know we have a good product, but definitely surprised by the amount of people that like it and have learned to love it even though they went into it thinking it was going to be disgusting.”
While Jake’s family has been farming in northern New Jersey for nearly 350 years, he got his start in the ice cream business while a student at the University of Delaware. “I was part of an internship team with the UDairy Creamery that existed before we even had a building and before we had a creamery.” Back then, creamery employees worked out of freezers in a garage at the Bob Carpenter Center and sold frozen treats at football games during the fall. “We really got to see what it was like to build a business from the ground up with a business plan, with no management, no official anything at that point, so that really kind of sparked my entrepreneurship spirit.”
Melinda Shaw, manager at UD’s on-campus creamery, is proud of Hunt’s success and even have a mild rivalry. “It was really fantastic to see how successful he’s been and how he’s coming up with creative ideas … We try not to outshoot each other on the flavor side, but I think he got us with the pork roll. We’re pretty excited that it’s so successful for him.”
The UDairy Creamery has been quite successful itself (try the goat-cheese and fig flavor). UD recently celebrated its first anniversary at its location in downtown Wilmington and plans to expand into cheese production in the near future.
“It’s a great time to be in the ice cream business, because there is so much creativity allowed,” Shaw said. “We also have a lot of creative customers that want to try something new, and the employees, the students that we have, they want to try new and exciting things with those flavor combinations.”
Back in the Garden State, Jake has planned more flavors in the Only in Jersey series. “We’re going to do a roasted tomato flavor at some point this summer, which I think we’ll get people intrigued but isn’t all that outlandish, and we’re going to do a sweet corn flavor that really highlights the production of sweet corn that we have here in New Jersey.”
All of the attention pork roll ice cream has generated has been a little overwhelming for Hunt. He’s hopeful the other flavors won’t go quite as viral for his small shop. “We don’t think they’re going to go as crazy as this one has, this one will keep us crazy enough for long enough.”
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