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Scotch Bonnet Pepper

Jamaicans love to cook and when they do, flavor plays an important role.  Pepper is one of the main ingredients that Jamaicans use to flavor their dishes and Scotch Bonnet pepper is the pepper of choice for most Jamaicans and other Caribbean countries.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Jerk, a style of cooking meat that Jamaica is known for, also involves the use of Scotch Bonnet pepper.  In fact, Scotch Bonnet pepper is one of the main ingredients in Jerk seasonings and sauces.  Jamaicans also use Scotch Bonnet peppers when making their famous Escovitch Fish.  In the preparation of Jerk Chicken, Pork and Escovitch Fish, the Scotch Bonnet pepper is used for both its flavour and heat.  The Scotch Bonnnet pepper is also chopped or minced and marinated on meat over night or added to the food in the early stage of cooking.  The green unripe Scotch Bonnet pepper on the other hand is often used whole to enhance the flavour of soups and Rice and Peas dishes.

Rice and Peas with Scotch Bonnet pepper

Scotch Bonnet peppers are used to make famous Caribbean hot pepper sauces. Some of the Jamaican made hot pepper sauces are available for purchase on our website.  Hot pepper sauce can be used as a condiment. It can also be used to season meat, fish and poultry. If you are not a hot pepper lover because of the heat, you can use the pepper sauce in moderation for its flavor.

The Name

The Scotch Bonnet pepper is named for its resemblance to a bonnet, called Tam o’ Shanter hat.  The pepper is native to the Caribbean islands and Central America.

Varieties

Some varieties of the Scotch Bonnet pepper can ripen to red, orange, yellow, peach, chocolate brown or even white.  The white Scotch Bonnet pepper is very rare to find and usually has the most heat.

Bet you did not realise that the flavor and heat, as with any chilli, adapts to the region and soil it is grown in.  Thus, varieties will differ slightly in spice, sweetness and even shape. 

Taste

So what does a Scotch Bonnet pepper taste like?  The taste has been described as slightly sweet taste, a bit like a tomato with a hint of apples and cherries. This sweetness makes the Scotch Bonnet a very popular chilli for Caribbean cooking and hot sauces.  It is a really distinct sweet-heat flavor that a lot of people love.

The Scotch Bonnet pepper is very closely related to the habanero, so if you’ve tasted a habanero you’ll have a decent idea of what a Scotch Bonnet has in store for you in terms of heat.  But just add in more sweetness.

Heat Scale

In the Caribbean a pepper is considered hot if it ‘burns going in and burns coming out’.  However, there are 2 other scales of heat measurement, Scoville and American Spice Trade Association (ASTA). 

The Scoville Scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the active compound responsible for pepper spice.  The capsaicin oil is extracted from the dried pepper and mixed with a solution of water and sugar to the point where a panel of taste-testers can barely detect the heat of the pepper.  The pepper is assigned Scoville units based on how much the oil was diluted with water in order to reach this point.

Tasters on the panel taste one sample per session so that the results from one sample don’t interfere with subsequent testing.  Even so, the test is subjective because it relies on human taste, so it is inherently imprecise.

Other plants produce spicy hot chemicals which can also be measured using the Scoville Scale, including piperine from black pepper and gingerol from ginger.

ASTA uses high-performance liquid chromatography to accurately measure the concentration of spice-producing chemicals.  

Heat Rating

The Scotch Bonnet is a hot pepper, rating 100,000 to 350,000 units on the Scoville Scale. 

In a field of natural and human engineered peppers the Scotch Bonnet rates 21 in ascending order of heat.  The number 1 is the Carolina Reaper, engineered by combining peppers from St Vincent and Pakistan. 

How to Stop Peppers Burning

Ever tried drinking water to reduce that pepper burn?  You will remember it did not work as capsaicin is not water soluble.  Did you then try drinking alcohol?  That only made it worse as the capsaicin dissolves in alcohol and gets spread around your mouth.

The capsaicin molecule binds to pain receptors, so the trick is to either neutralize alkaline capsaicin with an acidic food or drink, such as soda and citrus or surround the capsaicin molecule with a fatty food such as yogurt, sour cream or cheese. Now you know how to stop the burning, are you ready for a taste test?  Why not try cooking with the hot jerk seasoning paste.

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Jerk Seasoning

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.

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$10.90

Jerk Seasoning powder sold online in Australia by Jamaican Products

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Commercial size jerk seasoning liquid by Jamaican Products

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A Jamaican favourite mild jerk seasoning paste