Jerk – What’s in a name? Although Jerk can be a term for a lousy mate we are focusing on the culinary meaning of Jerk.
No doubt you have heard the term Jerky, lean meat that has been trimmed of fat, cut into strips, and then dried to prevent spoilage. Cited as originating in the 19th Century from the American Spanish work charqui (translated to beef jerky or jerk), the term Jerk has a much longer history in Jamaica.
Jerk is a unique Jamaican seasoning or marinade made from a combination of Pimento (also known as allspice or Jamaica pepper), hot pepper and other spices and herbs. There are two schools of thought about the origins of jerk. The first credits the Arawaks (Tainos), the original natives of Jamaica, with the authentic method of jerking. The other credits the Maroons with initially applying the technique to wild boar. The Maroon community was established in the 17th century by runaway slaves who lived in the rugged mountains of Jamaica.
There is an infinite number of jerk seasoning recipes, some with ingredient list a mile long. However all jerk seasoning mixes must have three main ingredients in order to taste authentic: Pimento, Scotch bonnet peppers; and Thyme. Pimento is indigenous to Jamaica and is also the only spice native to the “New World”.
In Jamaica Jerking is the term associated with preparing Jerk meat. This Jamaican method of cooking involves placing highly spiced meat over a pimento wood fire and allowing it to cook slowly. It was a local option to salt curing which helped to prevent spoilage in the tropical heat. The liberal amounts of indigenous spices and peppers preserved meats and made them taste delicious when cooked over the open fire.
Today Jerk cooking has progressed from cooking in the ground to the familiar sights of the steel drums or “Jerk pans”, barbeques or kitchen ovens. These Jerk pans can be found all over Jamaica on the street-side where jerk meats, mainly pork and chicken, can be purchased. You even have the option of choosing how spicy you want your Jerk meat. Jerk is normally sold with Jamaican staples such as Bammy, Fried Dumplings, Festival, Roasted Yam or Hard Dough Bread.
At home you may use jerk seasoning to marinate or rub everything from tofu chunks to poultry, seafood, or red meat before roasting or barbecuing. It is especially good when you marinate chicken, pork, or thick slices of tofu overnight. Then grill, roast, or broil the following day and serve with additional jerk sauces.
Jamaican Products provides the opportunity for you to explore the Jerk experience. Jerk seasoning and Jerk sauces are available in domestic and commercial quantities. Jamaican Products offers Jerk seasoning as a paste, liquid or dry options. Mild and Hot pastes as well as dry jerk seasonings are available in domestic sizes. While Mild and Hot pastes and liquid jerk seasonings are offered in commercial sizes. Jamaican Products also offers a range of jerk sauces to be used as table condiments.
If you are seasoning meat or other protein source to fry the dry rub jerk seasoning will work best. If on the other hand you want to marinate over night for a deeper flavour, the paste and liquid wet marinades are suggested.