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Perhaps the most internationally well-known food from Jamaica involves the spicy dry-rub Jerk seasoning, cooked in a 55-gallon drum converted into a charcoal grill, and served screaming-hot as street food across the island. While most of us don't have 55-gallon drums in our backyards, jerk-style meats (and even tofu!) are perfect for outdoor grilling, and (in a pinch) roasting for those without access to a grill.

The recipes in RecipeGullet have the common theme of Allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers, in addition to the inclusion of scallions, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. We have a recipe for Jerk Chicken and for Jamaican Jerk Paste which it seems can be readily adapted to nearly any protein, with pork, goat, and chicken being the best-known examples. In addition, entire cookbooks exist dedicated to the subject—Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style, for example.

Here on the eGullet Forums we have topics devoted to Jerk Chicken, Jerk Sauce, Jerk Pork, a discussion on the authenticity of using Soy Sauce in Jerk, and even some advice on Oil Drum Cooking.

What is your "house blend" of Jerk spices? Soy Sauce included, or sacrilege? Doin' your thing over gas, or burning Pimento Wood, or living in an apartment with no grill and winging it?

Chris Hennes
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Wouldn't we all love to have a source of pimento wood.

Jerk Marinade/Sauce

1 Small Habanero – Fire roast, peel, devein, seed

Dry Ingredients: Grind dry ingredients in a coffee grinder

2 Tbsp. All-spice berries, toasted

2 tsp. Black and white peppercorns, toasted

1 Bay leaf

1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

1/2 tsp. Pimenton

2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/2 tsp. Cinnamon

Wet Ingredients: Blend in a small processor

1 small Habanero from above - chopped

4 to 5 Scallions, green and white, chopped

2 large Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp. Ginger, fresh - chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh thyme leaves

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend to mix

Drizzle in:

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

1 Tbsp. Peanut oil

Blend into a paste

Use about 3/4 cup per chicken. Marinate 4 hours to 12 hours.

Roast halved chicken over smoke at 250 degrees for one and one-half to two hours.

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Yep, Jamaica has a pretty good stranglehold on Pimenta - although my Puerto Rican and South American neighbors are cultivating it with good success. Not sure why I have never tried to grow this one - possibly because I've moved around too much in the last 5 years or so. You have to have both male and female plants. Heck, there may be some growing in the scrub west of me.

Busy the next few days, but maybe early next week I will attempt a real morter and pestle stab at this again. It is generally too spicy for me, but I love the flavor. Hubby will rave.

Pigeon peas and rice are the traditional sides I think - or at least that's what I see around and about. Malanga, maybe? It would offset the fire. Some very nice breads come out of the Islands as well. There is a Jamaican Bakery and sort of luncheonette close by - maybe they will let me take pictures.

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Yep, Jamaica has a pretty good stranglehold on Pimenta - although my Puerto Rican and South American neighbors are cultivating it with good success. Not sure why I have never tried to grow this one - possibly because I've moved around too much in the last 5 years or so. You have to have both male and female plants. Heck, there may be some growing in the scrub west of me.

I have read in various online sources that soaked allspice berries can be added to the coals to get a similar flavor. Has anyone tried this? There is an online source for Pimento (Pimiento?) wood out of Minneapolis, I think, but they are quite pricey and frequently sold out.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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The botanical name is Pimenta dioica - my friends from the region call it "pimenta" - but pimento, allspice and Jamaica Pepper all appear on the packages in the ethnic markets.

Pimiento is a true capsicum (pepper) and something entirely different. I think I read somewhere that the original explorers were looking so hard for East Asian spices that they mistook the Allspice plant for black pepper, thus the confusion in nomenclature - as they are differnt species. I would have to look all that up again though to be sure.

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Today I started on the marination process: I'm using the recipe from markemorse over here: it does call for soy sauce, incidentally:


I picked these babies up at the farmers' market this morning:


What do you mean you don't use that many?!? Sissies... :biggrin: (OK, OK, I only used three of them, but the guy was only selling by the basket-full).

The recipe calls for "fire-roasted habañeros" so here goes with the fire roasting part:


The ingredients are then combined into a food processor (or blender, or maybe even a mortar and pestle setup if you are hardcore...):


I whirred it for a good long while since I didn't want any big chunks of habañero in there: better safe than sorry!


What you finally end up with is a bit wetter than I was expecting: the recipe calls for a quite large quantity of orange juice (fresh-squeezed, of course) which serves as the liquid base. Having never made Jerk before I was imagining more of a paste-like texture that would get rubbed on, but this is definitely more of a marinade:


Next up, the pork shoulder. I ordered this one up from Niman Ranch since I don't have a local pork supplier yet:


I didn't actually want the whole thing to go Jerk, I am making some pulled pork as well, so I cut off a good looking chunk to get marinating Jerk-style:


Finally, I put it one of those Reynolds' Vacu-Seal bags and sucked the air out to keep the marinade in good contact with the meat:


My plan is to let this marinate for 48 hours, then slow-smoke it over charcoal with some soaked allspice berries added to the coals in an attempt to get some Pimento flavor. No idea if it will work, and I've never tasted something smoked over Pimento wood, so I guess I won't know! Hopefully it tastes good, anyway.

Edited because I can't type...

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
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I'll be interested to know how this turns out. Did that recipe really call for 1/4 cup of allspice?  :shock:  Sounds like a lot, but really, how much less would make sense for 3kg (6.6lbs) of pork?

Time will tell.....

Well, in the defense of the recipe, it calls for 1/4 cup of Allspice berries: once ground up I estimate it was more like a tablespoon. The flavor is definitely strong, but not overwhelming. I'm smoking it right now, so I guess we'll find out how well it worked in a couple hours. I only used a fraction of the recipe: I made a whole batch, but added just enough to the bag to make an effective marinade: maybe 1/4 of it?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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I'm wondering what sides are traditional or even appropriate with jerk. Rice and peas with some fried plantains?

Hey we did lazy-persons jerk chicken this weekend (walkerswood/oil marinade - 4hrs) and cubed some plantain, fried in butter & oil (5min), stirred in garlic, ginger and allspice. After 10 min, added thyme, sugar, salt and some flat ginger ale!

Came out great!

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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After a 48-hour marination, this is what the pork shoulder looked like:


I soaked some allspice berries in water to add to the coals and create some smoke. In hindsight with was probably not worth the trouble: I did not detect much scent from them while smoking, and I think the standard smoke from the hardwood charcoal overpowered any slight flavor they may have imparted.


I set up an offset fire in the trusty Weber:


I held the temperature between 200F and 250F for approximately five hours, to get this:


That only brought the temp up to about 150F, so another hour or so in a 350F oven finished it off and brought it up to 200F. Action shot courtesy of my wife:


Close-up of the pork:


I followed markemorse's recommendations for the sauce, though I don't think the additional sugar was necessary:


And finally:


I served it with cilantro-lime rice and some sauteed squash, since I am not familiar with the appropriate authentic Jamaican accompaniments. The verdict? Tasty, but not enough heat, and too much allspice. I think I would cut the allspice in half, and double the habaneros next time. I know in markemorse's original post he was trying to keep the heat down, and I wasn't sure exactly how much heat there would be since habaneros can be a bit touchy, so that's no big deal, but your instincts about the amount of allspice called for seem correct: I think about half that quantity would be more appropriate. Maybe that was a typo?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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Hi Chris. I like quite a bit of heat in my food, too. So perhaps double the amount of habaneros? Too much? Also, do you find that habañeros have that often referred to "fruity" flavor about them? When I was first getting into chilies I wasn't too sure what that meant but I think that I do now. And while habañeros are bud-searing they really do have an almost diabolically citrus note about them.

I have a Weber that needs new handles- are your plastic or ceramic or something else entirely? They look nice and sturdy.

And that picture of your wet (oily?) hands with the flowers in the forefront, the milk, the vitamin..it just sings of happy, attentive domesticity. Love it!

Shelley: Would you like some pie?


Twin Peaks

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hey chris,

sorry that didn't really work out...that allspice conversation yesterday had me looking through my notes. I think the plan was to try another pass in the test kitchen, using some tips from here. Which happens to use twice the habaneros and only 2tbsp of allspice. But I think that's why this never went into RecipeGullet...I never did try it again....

hopefully it still made for passable eatin'...

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hopefully it still made for passable eatin'...

It wasn't bad per se, it was just dominated by the allspice. Some tinkering with the marinade will be required to get the ingredients in balance. In retrospect I should have done some adjustments when I first tasted it, but I sometimes have a hard time imagining the effect of a marinade based on its initial flavor. Gotta work on that!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations

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  • 3 weeks later...

I posted a jerked poussin on the Dinner! thread a couple of weeks go, here it is again:


Been making Jerk for a few years now and with any recipe like this it's evolved over time, here is mine as it stands. This amount makes enough marinade for 4 to 6 big chicken legs:

3 Big Scotch Bonnets - stalks removed but left whole

2-3 limes - Juice and zest

Dozen stalks of stripped thyme leaves

2-3 Fat Scallions - whites only

1 Tbl Pimento

2 Tbl Molasses Sugar

2 Cloves Garlic

1 Tsp Salt

Splash of Soy

Splash of Coconut Rum - optional nearer the end of the marination time.

Blend everything very well and marinate overnight. Make sure plenty of the marinade sticks when you're cooking.

For me, Jerk has to be lip-smackingly hot with the fruity freshness of citrus and pimento. The sugar helps with the nice caramelisation and the coconut rum gives a pleasing twist if used. Also, i find the Scotch Bonnet chillies vary in quality and they are the most important ingredient. From the supermarkets around here they are small and bland, but from the Jamaican stall at the market they are big, wrinkly and fiery. The problem is you can't really try them before you buy - a really fiery one would kill you!! Ok call me chicken but i think y'all know what i mean :wink:

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Boned leg of lamb was on sale this week, and I've been wondering what would happen if you tried to prepare a jerk lamb leg the way you'd prepare pulled pork: smoked then finished low and slow. Lamb leg lacks the internal fat of a pork shoulder, of course, but I think that I could get a pretty good, if inauthentic, result nonetheless.

I didn't have much time this morning to prepare a paste, so I used this Inner Beauty hot sauce knock-off, which has a jerk base though adds mustard and lacks thyme. The mustard seemed a good idea with the lamb, and I could easily supply thyme. Finally, since I was going to let this sit in the fridge overnight, I didn't want to add any additional uncooked acid, so no lime.

The lamb leg butterflied so that the marinade could get in deep:


Lots of thyme laid out:


IB sauce poured over and massaged in:


Roughly rolled pre-wrap:


Rolled in plastic wrap:


Tomorrow I'll tie it, smoke it in the Bradley until 140F or so, and then bring it inside to finish. Pics to come.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Crowder peas and rice, plantains saute'd in butter and oil like mentioned above, and possibly fried cabbage and carrots are all normal sides.

Akees are a traditional vegetable dish.

Callaloo (Amaranth) is a form of Jamacian greens, prepare it with okra and spinach water. Spinach can be substituted for the Amaranth as well.

Baked papaya would work

This is from "Time Life - Foods of the world"

Cut a 5-6# green papaya in half, scoop out pulp and coursley chop it.

Saute 1 cup of onions, and add the pulp and 4 medium tomatoes (that have been cored, peeled, and seeded) 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Let cook down until most of the pot liquor is evaporated. Stuff the papaya halves with the mixture, spread some soft butter over the top of each half and coat with a mixture of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Bake in a shallow roasting pan in a water bath for 20 mins or until the top is browned and the papaya tender. I suggest a 350º oven.

Edited by RAHiggins1 (log)
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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best sides ..pickled peppers, okra fungi, johnny cakes or flitters (spelled correctly you want flitters not fritters)

double fried plantains ..and yes rice and peas

any recipe for jerk is made better and really if you want it to be Island style you have to add a spoonful of Grace's Jerk

seriously everyone in the islands does that they make up their own jerk recipe or use mammy's and then add a spoonful of jerk seasoning ..(just like mammy!)

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?


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there is a common misconception that jerk food is supposed to be chili hot,

this is false, I've been to Jamaica and had jerk in a number of places

and it was not insanely hot as many assume it to be, however they typically have hot sauces to sprinkle on

Jerk is more about the process which is not much different than bbq smoking.

a typical jerk centre has a charcol grill which is then entirely covered with

the pimento sticks so that you can even see the coals from above and then the meat is placed on the sticks which will smoke from the coals below, then entire grill is then covered with sheets of metal

the sides are fries, buttered bread, roasted breadfruit and festival which is basically a fried torpedo shaped slightly sweet cornbread about 4 inches long

for me the best jerk item was the sausages

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What it looked like coming out of the Bradley:


I took it out a bit later than I'd have liked (it was at 150F), and because it wasn't shoulder it did dry out a little bit. But the smoke, sauce, thyme, and lamb were a great combination. I think next time I'd grab it at 130F or 135F -- or try to find a shoulder around here.

The final plating:


Clockwise from 12, the lamb, a nectarine and ginger compote, fried plantains, rice and peas (black beans -- daughter's favorite), and the hot sauce. Had it all with a tall Gingered Gentleman to drink.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chris, that looks like a killer meal. I hope to try smoking jerk pork one of these days.

We made grilled jerk chicken thighs and drumsticks (clicky for recipe), shortcut rice and “peas”, and roasted sweet potatoes. No habaneros to be found, so we used Korean chiles and marinated the chicken for about eight hours.

I have no idea if the jerk chicken recipe is “authentic” or not. The marinade and low heat kept the chicken falling-off-the-bone tender and juicy, but my baseline jerk chicken -- from Jamaica Joe’s in Silver Spring – was more saucy (probably braised rather than grilled).

I do miss the accompaniments at Jamaica Joe’s: Jamaican Hellfire Sauce mixed with Pickapeppa Sauce, DG ginger beer, meat patties, Bob Marley videos, and, on occasion, the wait staff softly joining the chorus of “No Woman, No Cry”.


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