By Robbie Johnson
Jamaica Jerk Marinade J
amaica jerk is without question one of the most distinctive tastes to be found in Caribbean cooking. Before I first visited the island myself, I had eaten many dishes at restaurants in the United States and Central America, each claiming to be “authentic” Jamaica-jerk-seasoned. But it was not until I sailed into Port Antonio, the old banana port on the north shore of Jamaica, and encountered first-hand “da real ting” at a Saturday market in the local parish that I realized what a stunningly distinctive taste it is. My first taste of “da real ting” was made all the more memorable by an unexpected appearance at the market of five female Voodoo practitioners screeching and dancing to the deafening beat of sticks-on-metal cans by a half-dozen Jamaican boys following in their wake. Dressed in immaculate white dresses and holding white-feathered chickens under their arms, the women leaped and twirled in frenzied worship, some
appearing to be in a trance-like state. Then suddenly, one of them grabbed a chicken by its neck and wrung the head free of the body. The headless chicken plopped to the ground, wings flapping, and ran amuck, wildly spewing blood from its stump. My daughter, who was about three-years-old at the time, remembers this bizarre demonstration more vividly than her first taste of the mouth-watering grilled Jamaica jerk chicken we bought later from a market vendor. There are probably more variations on the Jamaican jerk recipe than there are sailboats in the Caribbean. But the essential unchanging ingredients are Scotch Bonnet peppers, ground allspice, dried thyme and nutmeg. From there, it’s every chef for himself. This recipe is about as authentic as it gets, and I can assure you that no matter whether you use it with chicken, pork, or beef, you will experience “da real ting” straight from Jamaica. INGREDIENTS:
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2 Scotch Bonnet peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped ½ cup scallions, minced 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped ½ tablespoon dried thyme ½ tablespoon ground allspice ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon ¼ tablespoon nutmeg ¼ cup dark brown sugar 1 cup ketchup ½ cup vegetable oil ½ cup cider vinegar Salt and pepper to taste PREPARATION: Just combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. The chosen meat should be allowed to marinate for at least several hours, preferably overnight in a cooler. One of my favorites is to take inexpensive chicken leg quarters, hack them apart with a cleaver, pull back the skins and rub the meat with the marinade, then pull the skin back into place and cover all the chicken in a stainless steel bowl with the marinade. I turn the chicken several times during the day; the aroma makes your mouth water! Now, just heat and oil the grill, and brown the chicken quickly over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat and cook more slowly for about 45 minutes. Serve with rice and peas, or maybe plantains fried in butter. A nice tropical fruit salad would be great, too. Welcome to Jamaica! Robbie Johnson lives aboard a steel Tahiti Ketch and is the author of Gourmet Underway – A Sailor’s Cookbook. Order his book at www.gourmetunderway.com. www.southwindsmagazine.com