Researching the word ‘Jerk’ has been interesting, with different meanings in different countries, it is even used as a boys name in Scandinavia although they do put an ‘h’ behind the ‘J’ (Jherk). Here in the UK we would be most offended if some was to call us a ‘jerk’!
In the Caribbean the word Jerk is used to describe a cooking method native to Jamaica but used throughout the islands. The meat is dry rubbed or wet marinated with a hot mix of spice & peppers. Jerk seasoning was traditionally applied to pork and chicken. However these days people use it for all sorts of meats and fish as well. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon a few key ingredients scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar and salt.
To ensure the item you were marinading absorbed the full flavour of the marinade mix you would ‘jook’ or do the jerking, this means to ‘poke’ the meat, making holes so that the flavour could be more easily absorbed.
Personally we tend to use two ways either the above or make cuts in the meat or fish. (Diagonal slices about ⅓ of the way in the meat).
Making your own jerk marinade can be fun and rewarding, playing with the heat value to get it right so that you can still enjoy all the flavours takes a little practice. A word of warning, scotch bonnets should be handled with respect and always use rubber gloves!
The cooking technique of jerking as well as the results that produces has evolved over time from using pit fires to old oil barrel halves as the container of choice around.
Caribbean entrepreneurs seeking to recreate the smoked pit flavour in an easier more portable method came up with a solution to cut oil barrels lengthwise and attach hinges drilling several ventilation holes for the smoke. These barrels are filed with charcoal which enhances the spicy smoky taste.
Most people unless its a special occasion don’t have time to spend hours on preparing the marinade and BBQ’ing the food. Luckily we do have a solution for you :-) Using the Chef Bernie’s Jerk Marinade makes life easy and as long as you get it together the night before, put the marinade on your chosen meat, fish or veggie option, ready for the next evening to either cook in the oven, or grill you will have great results in no more time than it takes to cook a pre packed ready meal!
What to put with your jerked food?
Personally I don’t think you can beat rice ’n’ peas, fried plantain, coleslaw and green fig salad.
All these magical flavours gives you sweet, salty, dry and hot, who could want more in a dish.