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In a discussion about various cuisines in the Caribbean, jerk chicken (and jerk beef) come up as responses to posters' favorite Caribbean foods.

What exactly is jerk chicken? Is it chicken that's been rubbed with a spice rub and then roasted or baked? What makes a "jerk" good? What are your combinations of spices in a typical "jerk"?

What do you like to serve it with? Is this limited to chicken and beef, or can you for instance, do something with squab, pork, shrimp, crab, lamb, buffalo, or goat?

Soba

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When I had it in Jamaica. it was seasoned dark meat, bone-in chicken, cooked on a grill, chopped into chunks and served on brown paper with ketchup eaten standing in the "yard" with reggae blasting out of a boom box.

At the Jamaican restaurants in DC and LA where I have had it, it was a very spicy boneless chicken sauteed or stewed and served with rice and peas (beans).

Needless to say, the stuff I had in JA and the struff I've had domestically were entirely different, although the domestic Jamaican restarants I ate at were run by Jamaicans. I always wondered why there was a difference.

Typical jerk contains scallions, allspice, thyme and scotch bonnet peppers (among other minor ingredients). I buy the pre-made stuff from Grace or Walker's Woods. I use it on chicken mostly but have tried it with shrimp and beef as well. I rarely use it in its pure paste form, until a few years ago before you could buy the "mild" jerk, a 1/4 teas of the regular stuff was enough to make 1/2 lb of meat firery. I would mix some paste with a little olive oil and then marinade the meat. Now, I mostly use it as one ingredient of a marinade.

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When I had it in Jamaica. it was seasoned dark meat, bone-in chicken, cooked on a grill, chopped into chunks and served on brown paper with ketchup eaten standing in the "yard" with reggae blasting out of a boom box.

At the Jamaican restaurants in DC and LA where I have had it, it was a very spicy boneless chicken sauteed or stewed and served with rice and peas (beans).

Needless to say, the stuff I had in JA and the struff I've had domestically were entirely different, although the domestic Jamaican restarants I ate at were run by Jamaicans. I always wondered why there was a difference.

Typical jerk contains scallions, allspice, thyme and scotch bonnet peppers (among other minor ingredients). I buy the pre-made stuff from Grace or Walker's Woods. I use it on chicken mostly but have tried it with shrimp and beef as well. I rarely use it in its pure paste form, until a few years ago before you could buy the "mild" jerk, a 1/4 teas of the regular stuff was enough to make 1/2 lb of meat firery. I would mix some paste with a little olive oil and then marinade the meat. Now, I mostly use it as one ingredient of a marinade.

I am going to guess that the jerk seasoning you are talking about bears little if any resemblance to the McCormick's jerk stuff that I bought at Costco.

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I've never had it outside of the US.

What I have had here, I have liked. I think of allspice and scotch bonnets being the predominant flavors.

Food and Wine has an excellent recipe that was in their 25th anniversary issue. I think it's posted on their site.

Gourmet Anarchy

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When I had it in Jamaica. it was seasoned dark meat, bone-in chicken, cooked on a grill, chopped into chunks and served on brown paper with ketchup eaten standing in the "yard" with reggae blasting out of a boom box.

At the Jamaican restaurants in DC and LA where I have had it, it was a very spicy boneless chicken sauteed or stewed and served with rice and peas (beans). 

Needless to say, the stuff I had in JA and the struff I've had domestically were entirely different, although the domestic Jamaican restarants I ate at were run by Jamaicans.  I always wondered why there was a difference. 

Typical jerk contains scallions, allspice, thyme and scotch bonnet peppers (among other minor ingredients).  I buy the pre-made stuff from Grace or Walker's Woods.  I use it on chicken mostly but have tried it with shrimp and beef as well.  I rarely use it in its pure paste form, until a few years ago before you could buy the "mild" jerk, a 1/4 teas of the regular stuff was enough to make 1/2 lb of meat firery.  I would mix some paste with a little olive oil and then marinade the meat.  Now, I mostly use it as one ingredient of a marinade.

I am going to guess that the jerk seasoning you are talking about bears little if any resemblance to the McCormick's jerk stuff that I bought at Costco.

If youre talking about the powder mix, then no. Different stuff.

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From what I've read, jerk is just the name used for Jamacaian barbecued meat (typically pork, but chicken's become very popular too). It's rubbed with a spice mixture that contains scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, cinnamon, onions and garlic, as bbq mentioned above, then grilled over a fire. Traditionally, alspice wood was used, but I'm not sure if that's still the case.

I've seen a lot of dishes called "jerk" but I'd say the crucial factors are that the meat be rubbed with or marinated in some combination of the spices mentioned above, and grilled. I'd never call a sauteed or stewed dish "jerk."

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The baseline for jerking, I think, is a dry rub of scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, allspice, thyme and salt. Individuals take off from there. I've never had any wet preparations of jerk in Jamaica. It always happens over a slow smoky fire with aromatic (sometimes pimento) wood. Chicken or beef in a stew is usually called brown stew even though it has the allspice, thyme, etc. Also I've never seen jerked beef. Somebody must do it.

You can jerk fish, goat, pork, chicken, lobster, whatever. The discussion about true jerk is like the one about barbecue here in the states. Frisky and opinionated and wildly varied. Every year in Port Antonio they have a jerk festival. Tens of thousands of people come. I've never been but hope to go some year soon.

I think jerking probably in the beginning was a way of preserving meat and also of masking some rotten smells and tastes. It's hot in Jamaica and refrigeration hasn't been--still isn't--a ubiquitous thing. However the process came about I'm happy for it.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I'd never call a sauteed or stewed dish "jerk."

Have you had jerk or just read about it? If so, how was it prepared? The sauteed or stewed jerk that I've had domestically was called "jerk" on the menu by the Jamaican restaurants-not my name for it. And it was the same preparation in the Jamaican joints in DC, Silver Spring, MD, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. None prepared it the way I've had it Jamaica, yet all restaurants called it jerk.

Edited by bbq4meanytime (log)
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I'd never call a sauteed or stewed dish "jerk."

Have you had jerk or just read about it? If so, how was it prepared? The sauteed or stewed jerk that I've had domestically was called "jerk" on the menu by the Jamaican restaurants-not my name for it. And it was the same preparation in the Jamaican joints in DC, Silver Spring, MD, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. None prepared it the way I've had it Jamaica, yet all restaurants called it jerk.

I should have been more precise. I've had jerk (not in Jamaica, just at Caribbean/Jamaican restaurants in the States) and it's always been grilled. Plus, from what I've read, grilling is essential in jerk.

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Are the quantites for the various components in a "jerk" generally proportioned, or do they vary wildly from cook to cook? I would imagine that the allspice flavor profile would be toned down as opposed to the scotch bonnet pepper (which has a fruity flavor profile on top of the spiciness/heat factor.)

Soba

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I think the seasonings are balanced to the jerker's taste. There's no rule of thumb. They do use quite a bit of allspice. Also garlic figures prominently

My guess about why Jamaican restaurants in the US calls braises and stews jerk is that it's good marketing. Brown stew doesn't sound all that appetizing. Also that they seldom have a facility for cooking over a wood fire. Jerking is usually a slow process so a gas grill probably wouldn't work because it would go too fast.

My favorite kind is jerked pork from a place called boston bay on the northeast coast of Jamaica. people come from all over the island to this place. It's kind of a coop, an outdoor grill that abuts a bar and is run by a few different families over the course of the week. The townwship owns it and you have to be born in boston to cook there. It's not for the faint of heart. Some days the pork is spicier than others but even on the mildest day you'll need a few red stripes to make it through. Also, it's kind of an all-in-one kind of joint. The grill is on a hillside. Just below is a small concrete outbuilding with a concrete counter-like thing. They kill and slaughter the pigs there, in plain view of the cooking. They are not long on tools at boston. A machete for butchering and a chunk of wood and a paring knife for the cutting of of pieces that are delivered wrapped in paper. You can get roasted breadfruit and festival there also. The breadfruits are just thrown on the coals to cook. Tastes a little like wonderbread. Festival is heavy savory fried dough. You eat with your hands. They cook the whole pig. Sausages are made with the intestines. They cook the head, the knuckles are a prized delicacy, all of the organ meat too. Everybody's got their own favorite bit. I like the belly. On a good day the skin is so damn crispy. It's hard to describe both how spicey and how tasty it really is. On the first bite I usually experience the cartoon moment where my eyes turn red and steam starts shooting out my ears. My hat rises up off my head about six inches. Then the flavours push through. The roof of the mouth tingles sort of a palatial (palatal? palatory?) form of panic. I go to work eating through a half a pound or so.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I must say that few things on earth are better than an order of Jerk Chicken from "Debuss" eaten sittting on 7 mile beach in Negril Jamaica, and washed down by a cold Red Stripe...I dont know why, but Red Stripe really does taste better when eaten with Jerk.....

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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I use Busha Brownes' Jerk Seasoning (paste). Which has all the usual ingredients but I add lots more fresh garlic, a smidge of soy sauce and some citrus juice to the marinade. I like to use dark meat chicken and then grill it.

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The baseline for jerking, I think, is a dry rub of scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, allspice, thyme and salt. Individuals take off from there. I've never had any wet preparations of jerk in Jamaica. It always happens over a slow smoky fire with aromatic (sometimes pimento) wood. Chicken or beef in a stew is usually called brown stew even though it has the allspice, thyme, etc......

I think Ned has nailed it pretty succinctly. My Jamaican frieds have advised that in Jamaica it's both a preparation and cooking method. The dry rub and the slow smoking/grilling are crucial. There is a specific wood (not sure of it's the allspice wood mentioned) that is supposed to be used for both the fire itself and also green oieces of it to form the lattice that serves as the grilling surface to hold the meat. I imagine that whatever the native wood is, it may be in shorter supply these days. Here in the US, I find that jerk flavor varies from one restaurant to the next to a greater extent than curry flavor.

I've had it be plain and unappealing like the jerk served at a takeout place in the food court at the Manhattan Mall in NYC - a piece of baked or grilled chicken with some jerk sauce poured over the top. I've also had jerk chicken at a small neighborhood place in Syracuse (no longer open) that blew my mind - the chicken meat was firm and had great texture, was not dry, yet was also totally permeated with the jerk flavor. Jerk chicken was always my favorite although I've tried goat and pork. The best yet was the jerk fish at Bongo's jerk Hut here in Syracuse. It's a whole crisopy fish served in the same manner as the brown stewed fish but seasoned with jerk. Very fiery and very good. I'll be making jerk chicken with rice 'n peas and cabbage at home next week - will try to report back on my success (or lack of same).

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I have never been to Jamaica (the island, that is), but I have been told I made a credible jerk sauce, which I use as a marinade for chicken and pork. I use white onion, garlic, fresh thyme (stems and all), allspice berries, black peppercorns, scotch bonnets, brown sugar and/or molasses, soy sauce, white vinegar, and maybe some other stuff but I haven't made it in a while (it keeps well in the fridge). Mush it all up in the blender; it will still be fibrous, although very liquidy.

Alas, I've never been able to grill the meat I marinate in it. But the stuff is pretty tasty baked. (I prefer it to many NYC restaurant jerk sauces I've tasted -- they tend to be one-note.)

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They don't do so much grilling but I recommend Daphne's on East 14th street for a good quality New York Jamaican experience.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Just watched a program on TV this afternoon...on kitchen make-overs. The home owner happened to be Jamaican and operated a restaurant in ...not sure where. She made jerked chicken on the show.

She used a wet marinate, of scotch bonnet peppers, brown and cane sugar, olive oil, thyme, lime juice?. The chicken was 2 halves, bone in, flattened and marinated for an hour or so. The BBQ was charcoal...burned low. She first put down several pieces of pimento wood, then the chicken, topped by pieces of oak.

The meat was cooked, covered, over a slow fire for 3 to 4 hours!? They didn't show the final results, but she said it would slow cook to tender juicy jerked chicken!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Dejah's description sounds about right to me. The jerk seasoning is a cross between a wet rub and a marinade. Not wet enough for a true marinade, but not dry enouhg for a dry rub. It's a paste.

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Partially in response to this thread, I made jerk chicken night before last. havoing a bottle of store-bought jerk sauce already waiting to be used, I marinated some deboned chicken thighs fopr 24 hours and then broiled (we're expecting snow this weekend - I'm still not ready to get out the grill). It was okay but the flavor simply was not well infused enough into the meat. I'l have my electric smoker back up and running in another week or so if it warms up outside and will try this with the smoker.

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I use Busha Brownes' Jerk Seasoning (paste). Which has all the usual ingredients but I add lots more fresh garlic, a smidge of soy sauce and some citrus juice to the marinade. I like to use dark meat chicken and then grill it.

Chow Guy, can you give us some more details on how you do this. I happened on to some Busha Browne's at the World Market and am anxious to give it a run.

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In Jamaica, they use pimento wood to BBQ their Jerked meats. Pimento is the tree that Allspice comes from. I've yet to find a reliable source for Pimento wood in the states.

Notice I said BBQ and NOT grill. They do use a direct heat method. But the meat is usually a pretty good distance from the coals. About 250-300 degrees inside the chamber. Also, traditionally, the meat is wrapped in banana leaves before going on the heat. On the island you'll see jerk chicken predominately. However, the jerk pork steak is to die for. Finding that cut at the supermarket can be a little challenging though.

Andy Szmidt

WineMiles.com - great wines! low prices!

The early bird may get the worm. But it is the second mouse that gets the cheese.

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However, the jerk pork steak is to die for. Finding that cut at the supermarket can be a little challenging though.

I've only happened across jerk pork once at a take-out place here in the US (Dev's on Bloomfield Ave in Bloomfield NJ). The jerk seasoning was tatsy, as their chicken is, but the meat had huge chunks of fat and just lacked appeal for me.

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