"Jerk" refers to a style of cooking native to Jamaica
in which meats are dry-rubbed or marinated with a fiery spice mixture
before grilling. The spice mixture, called jerk spice or jerk
seasoning, typically contains allspice
or Scotch bonnet
peppers. Additional ingredients vary from cook to cook, but cloves,
are most commonly used.
There are as many stories about the origins of jerk as there are jerk
recipes. But many credit the method of jerking to the Maroons, runaway
slaves who lived in the rugged Jamaican mountains in the 17th century.
Hunters of wild boar, the Maroons highly
seasoned portions of boar meat with peppers and spices before slowly cooking them over a fire pit.
They may have learned this method from the indigenous Arawak Indians as
a way to prevent spoilage in the tropical Caribbean heat.
Today pork, chicken, fish and even tofu
are prepared in this tradition
and outdoor jerk stations are the popular eating spots in towns all over Jamaica and the Caribbean.
You can mix your own jerk spice recipe
or buy a commercially prepared blend in your grocer's spice aisle.
As with all herbs
and spices, keep in an airtight container, away from
heat, moisture and sunlight (avoid storing near the stove or windows).
Seasoning blends typically retain their freshness for one to two years.
The depth of sweet and savory flavor achieved by seasoning with jerk
spice is unparalleled. Give your meats and seafood some island sizzle
with a dry-rub of Jamaican spice before grilling or broiling. Two
tablespoons should be enough for two lbs. of chicken
ribs or lamb
Or let meats soak in the flavor with a tenderizing jerk marinade
paste. Brush on a taste-tempting mix of jerk spice, lemon juice, brown sugar
and olive oil