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Saturday, July 22, 2006

The history of Jamaican Jerk

If you visit Jamaica and have not experienced Jerk Chicken, or Jerk Pork or any jerk recipes, man you have not lived.

The term jerk is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English. Another origin is linked to the jerking or poking of the meat with a sharp object, producing holes which were then filled with the spice mixture. Like most Caribbean islands, Jamaican foods are derivative of many different settlement cultures, including British, Dutch, French, Spanish, East Indian, West African, Portugese, and Chinese. The origins of jerk pork can be traced back to the pre-slavery days of the Cormantee hunters of West Africa through the Maroons, who were Jamaican slaves that escaped from the British during the invasion of 1655.

What is Jamaican Jerk?

You can easily make jerked foods at home with a good recipe and an understanding of the requisite ingredients. The seasoning has three main ingredients: chile pepper, allspice berry, and thyme. Other spices and herbs (which may include cinnamon, ginger, cloves, garlic and onion depending on the cook) are combined with these and applied to the food which is then allowed to marinate. Finally, food is grilled to tender perfection.

Be forewarned, if you cannot handle spicy-hot foods, jerk may not be for you. Deletion of the chile pepper vastly changes the end product, and it's just not jerk without the heat! Take a look at the three most important ingredients of jerk seasoning before trying an authentic Jamaican jerk recipe. The pepper mentioned below is extremely hot. If you think Jalepeno is hot then don't try it in your recipe.

Scotch Bonnet
The first main ingredient of jerk seasoning is Scotch bonnet pepper, a variety of the habanero, so named for the shape of the pepper which resembles a Scotch tam or hat. This pepper ranges in color from green to yellow to red, often mixed depending on the ripeness of the pepper. The purpose of the chile pepper was not only to spice up normally bland foods, but also to preserve foods when refrigeration was not easy to come by and to aid in digestion. Habanero chiles are arguably the hottest in the world, according to the Scoville Chart, one thousand times hotter than the jalapeno. If you can't find Scotch bonnets in your local grocery store or ethnic market, you can substitute jalapenos, but it will be worth your effort to hunt down the real thing. You can also reduce the heat by omitting the seeds of the chile. As with all chiles, use rubber gloves when handling and cutting, avoid inhaling the fumes, and thoroughly wash your hands after handling.

I didn't put up all the history of the ingredients, because I think the others are pretty self explanatory.

Below are some Jerk Dishes.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Jamaican Jerk Salmon
Jamaican Jerk Turkey wraps
Jamaican Jerk Turkey Kabobs

Below is a pretty nice recipe for you to try

Nat's Real Jamaican Jerk Recipe #112420

Jerk sauce for Chicken, Pork, Beef or even Fish.
1/2 cup allspice berries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6-8 cloves garlic
2 scotch bonnet peppers (use more if you dare)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
12 green onions
3 tablespoons Pickapeppa Sauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 lime, juice of

salt and pepper

10 servings Change size or US/metric

5 minutes 5 mins prep

*recipe can be found at


Leon said...

Wow, had no idea there was such a rich history behind jerk. Didn't know there was jerk salmon either.

iriegal said...

yeah mon...anything can be jerked..

Ever had jerked Lobster, they have a place in Portland that serves it.

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Anonymous said...

Really amazing! Useful information. All the best.

Anonymous said...

Great site loved it alot, will come back and visit again.

Ellen B. said...

thanks, it helped w/ my report

Ellen B. said...

thanks, it helped w/ my report