Today, we will delve into the history and making of Jerk Chicken, one of the most famous dishes out of Jamaica. Jerk refers to a way that a meat, be it chicken, beef, pork, goat, fish, vegetables or fruit is seasoned and cooked. The typical cooking style uses a marinade or paste that includes at least pimento, which is often called allspice, and scotch bonnet peppers, also known as habenero. The meat is then marinated and slow smoked over pimento wood. Allspice is called pimento because the early European settlers mistook the berry and tree as black pepper, which was called pimento in Spanish, so allspice is often called pimento. In this interesting article of the history of Jerk Chicken including pictures, we learn that the word “Jerk” comes from the Peruvian word Charqui, a word that describes dry strips of meat, like in “Beef Jerky” that we use very often. Most historians agree Jamaica was settled by the Arawak Indians over 2500 years ago from South America. They used similar techniques to smoke and dry meat in the sun or over a slow fire, that were common in Peru. This was important as the dried beef could be taken on journeys and eaten as is or chopped and reconstituted in boiling water. This ancient technique goes on today and is known as jerky.
Now, how to duplicate the authentic flavors and smoking technique used in Jamaica? This can be a challenge, because the smoke from the allspice tree is what creates the unique jerk flavors. Here is a great recipe to try to duplicate this amazing flavor at home from seriouseats website.
For a full experience of Jamaican food, try out Morgan’s Island Grill in Hightstown, NJ! It serves amazing Jamaican food, with great ambiance and is easy on the wallet.