Aside from turquoise water, white sand beaches, friendly people and luxury resorts, the thing I miss most about Jamaica is authentic Jamaican jerk chicken. It’s got just the right amount of spice (for me), tender meat that falls off the bones and pairs perfectly with a Red Stripe beer.
The photo above is from the famous Scotchie’s restaurant in Montego Bay. I’m not sure this poor man knew what hit him with all of the flashing. Scotchie’s is a favorite among locals and I highly recommend a stop there.
What is Jerk?
Jerk is a style of cooking that’s native to Jamaica in which meat is dry-rubbed or wet-marinated in a spicy seasoning called Jamaican jerk spice. The two main ingredients are pimento (allspice) and scotch bonnet peppers. I had very hot scotch bonnet peppers and those I could totally tolerate. Either way, if you like hot peppers, you’ll love these.
Jerk refers to both the spice rub and the style of cooking. Why the word jerk? No one really knows. It could refer to the action of poking holes in the meat in order to allow the spices to penetrate, “jerking” strips of meat off of the bone, or turning the meat in the marinade.
History of Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Long story sort, this technique of cooking has been traced back to the 17th century. It might actually be of African origin because as the British invaded Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish fled and left African slaves behind. The African slaves escaped the mountains where they integrated with local people.
Food was not easy to come by so they preserved meat with spices and secretly cooked it over pimento wood, a tree that is quite common on the island. I was told verbally while in Jamaica that the reason for the tin cover, shown in the above photo, was that it enabled the cooking to be done somewhat secretly. The upshot is that the resulting chicken is incredibly moist!
Enjoy! Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Have a look at 5 Caribbean Spas to Add to Your Bucket List. Hello, luxury.