Caribbean Island Resort Cuisine!Jamaican Jerk is a style of cooking that the Arawak tribe created in the Caribbean Islands. The Arawak Jerk cooking style originally was a method of preserving meat in a tropical climate. Fish, small game or wild bird meat was marinated with extra spicy hot chile peppers, allspice, salt brine and green onions. The marinated meat was smoked and slow roasted over a fire made with burning chile pepper bushes. Jerk was a very effective method of preserving meat, because the capsicum oil and the chemicals from the burning chile pepper nightshade plants warded off all pathogens and insects.
Later on after Columbus thought he discovered India in the Caribbean, the Arawak Jerk meat preservation method was adopted by European and African pirates, traders, slaves and colonists. These settlers added lime, rum, black pepper, thyme and sugar to the original Jerk Marinade.
The colonists used the Jerk cooking method to preserve meats, but because of the extra spicy hot peppers in the recipe, folks from northern European countries kind of shied away from Jerk style meats. Jerk then became a main staple for indentured servants and slaves on sugar cane plantations, especially on the Island of Jamaica. African cooks basically adapted and preserved the Jerk cooking technique, which could have been lost to history when the entire Arawak Tribe was killed off by the European imperialists.
There is a big difference in flavor between Jerk Marinade that is made from scratch and a bottle of store bought Jerk Marinade Sauce. Most of the bottled Jerk Marinade products taste terrible! The flavor balance is way off of the mark and all that can be tasted is lime.
Most of the commercial manufacturers do not add rum to their Jerk Marinade Products. Commercial Jerk Marinades do not contain enough hot chile peppers or allspice. The manufacturers also cheapen up the marinade by not adding enough raw sugar or brown sugar. If you go to Jamaica and look at a street vendor's Jerk Marinade, it looks dark brown in color, because there is plenty of brown sugar, dark rum and spices in the mix. Commercial Jerk Marinade products look like vile shade of green and once again, bitter lime rind pulp is just about the only flavor that can be tasted.
Jerk Dry Seasoning Herb Mix is a better commercial product, but the list of ingredients for a pre-manufactured Jerk Marinade Spice Mix can be counted on 4 fingers. Jerk Dry Seasoning Mix only contains allspice, thyme, black pepper and Dried Crushed Red Chile Caribe. That simple spice simply is not worth paying the price for convenience.
Jamaican Jerk Marinade:
This recipe yields enough Jerk Marinade for about 12 to 15 chicken breast strips.
The marinade only needs to coat the chicken strips and not drown the chicken strips. This way, very little marinade is wasted.
Jerk Marinade is supposed to be spicy hot, so do not remove the seeds from the peppers, unless you simply cannot take the spicy heat. The rum will actually mellow the spicy heat a little bit.
Step 1: Mix these ingredients together in a mixing bowl:
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of amber rum or dark rum
- 1 ounce of lime juice
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup of water.
- 1 thin sliced lime
Step 2: Place these ingredients in a food processor:
- 5 chopped green onions
- 1/2 cup of coarse chopped onion
- 2 chopped jalapeño peppers
- 2 chopped Scotch Bonnet Peppers. (green habanero peppers can be substituted)
- 6 garlic cloves
Pulse the food processor till the ingredients are pulverized and minced.
Add the minced vegetables to the marinade.
Step 3: Add these ingredients:
- 1/2 tablespoon of crushed dried red pepper (Pizzeria style crushed dried red chile pepper is Dried Red Chile Caribe.)
- 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of lime zest
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- 1/2 tablespoon of thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Step 4: Stir the ingredients together.
Chill the marinade for 20 minutes, so the flavors meld.
Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken:
This recipe yields enough for 1 salad.
Place 4 large long chicken breast strips on 4 bamboo skewers. (Each chicken breast strip should weigh 2 1/2 to 3 ounces apiece.)
Place the skewers in a container.
Add just enough Jerk Marinade to generously coat the chicken.
Refrigerate the Jerk Chicken Skewers for at least 2 hours.
Warm Rum Plum Salad Dressing:
This recipe yields enough for 1 large salad. (About 1/3 cup)
Step 1: Dice a piece of salt pork into small lardon cube shapes. (About 1 tablespoon of salt pork lardons is plenty.)
Place the lardons in a sauté pan over medium low heat.
Sauté till they are crisp and the grease renders.
Step 2: Add just enough vegetable oil, so there is a total of 2 1/2 tablespoons of rendered salt pork lard and oil in the pan.
Add 1 tablespoon of minced sweet onion.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
Step 3: Add 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Add 3 ounces of rum.
Add 1 tablespoon of water.
Add 1 pinch of coarsely ground black pepper.
Add 1 pinch of allspice.
Add 1 finely chopped fresh black plum.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of raw sugar or granulated sugar.
*Taste and add salt if necessary. The salt pork carries plenty of salt flavor.
Step 4: Simmer and reduce the rum plum dressing, till it is a thin vinaigrette consistency that can easily coat spinach greens.
Step 5: Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
Add 1 thin sliced black plum.
Take the pan off of the heat.
Step 6: Quickly bring dressing up to a gentle boil over medium heat just before serving. (Add a splash of water if too much liquid evaporates.)
Jamaican Jerk Chicken and Warm Rum Plum Spinach Salad:
This recipe yields 1 large salad entrée.
For indoor cooking, the skewers can be cooked on a cast iron griddle or under a broiler. Many street venders cook Jerk Skewers on a steel griddle. Cooking over an open flame is traditional.
Step 1: Heat a chargrill or cast iron griddle over medium/medium high heat.
Grill the Jerk Chicken Skewers.
Baste the skewers occasionally with any Jerk Marinade that remains in the container.
Grill the Jerk Chicken, till it is lightly caramelized and the chicken is fully cooked.
Move the Jerk Chicken to a low temperature spot.
Step 2: *Start reheating the Rum Plum Salad Dressing!
Place 3 cups of trimmed spinach leaves in a mixing bowl.
Add a little bit of sliced onion,
Add a few thin slices of carrot.
Step 3: Stir the warm Rum Plum Salad Dressing.
Pour just the warm dressing over the spinach mixture in the mixing bowl.
Toss the salad with the hot dressing.
Step 4: Mound the Warm Rum Plum Spinach Salad on the center of a large plate.
Arrange the Jerk Chicken Skewers on the mound of warm spinach salad, so they crisscross.
The flavor of this salad is pure Jamaican goodness, Mon!