Probably the biggest fast-food industry in Jamaica, you literally cannot go anywhere in Jamaica, at any time of the day or night, without encountering a jerk stand! Jamaicans and visitors alike seemingly never get tired of jerk – whether it’s chicken, pork, fish, goat, beef, sausage or even vegetables, lobster or shrimp. Until you try real Jamaican jerk, you haven’t tasted Jamaica. But be prepared – this spicy-hot jerk can pack some serious heat!
Jerk is native to Jamaica and is the process of spicing and grilling meats that have been dry-rubbed with a very spicy mixture consisting primarily of Scotch Bonnet peppers (some of the hottest peppers around, in the habanero family) and pimento, and then marinated into the meat for 4 to 12 hours. Each chef concocts his/her own special jerk spice rub, adding other ingredients like scallions, ginger, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or garlic. Some chefs add soy sauce or vinegar to make a marinade and believe this makes the meat jucier than the crusty dry rub. No matter your preference, great debate goes on over whose secret recipe is the best and family recipes are zealously protected!
Boston Bay, in the east coast parish of Portland where allspice trees grow wild, is celebrated for its concentration of stalls selling jerk along with festival, rice and peas, and coconut water. People travel from all over the island to sample what many believe is the very best jerk. Boston originated the annual Jerk Festival, now known as the Portland Jerk Festival, which is held at the Folly Great House on the outskirts of Port Antonio each July. It has become a fun-filled 3-day event with entertainment by local performers and wonderful jerk from some of Jamaica’s finest native cooks. Just follow the aroma and the smoke!
Follow the link to our favorite recipe for Jerk Chicken if you want to give this delicious dish a try.