Jerk seasoning is a type of seasoning and a style of cooking that is native to Jamaica, though it has spread all throughout the Caribbean, as well as to parts of Europe, Africa and the US as well. It is meat, usually chicken or pork, that has been either spiced with a a spicy dry rub or a spicy wet marinade. The word jerk comes from the Spanish word charqui, meaning dried meat. This transformed into the word jerk by the English. The art of jerking (or cooking with jerk spice) originated with Amerindians in Jamaica from the Arawak and Taíno tribes who intermingled with the Maroons, or the escaped African slaves who intermingled with the Taino Indians. The main ingredients for a jerk sauce or rub are allspice and hot peppers, anything else is up to your imagination. In the Caribbean, these peppers are known as scotch bonnet peppers, but you can also substitute any kind of spicy peppers such as jalapenos or habaneros too. This time I used some roasted Hatch chilies.
Allspice, or the Jamaican pepper, goes by other names as well, such as the myrtle pepper or pimenta or pimento. It comes from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta Dioica or midcanopy tree that is found in many warm, tropical parts of the world and all throughout the Caribbean Islands. It became known as allspice in 1621 by the English, because of its combined flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Just because jerk sauce or seasoning is primarily used for chicken or pork does not mean that it is only used for those meats. It is also very good on beef. I made a jerk steak for dinner, along with some Caribbean side dishes to get us in the mood for our upcoming trip to Bonaire.
Jamaican Jerk Steak
1 1/2-2 lbs chuck or skirt steak
4 small spicy chilies – I used some roasted hatch chilies this time
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp paprika
salt & black pepper to taste
4 green onions
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor until they are well blended and form a paste. Then rub on the meat and allow to set for at least 3-4 hours in the refrigerator.
When the meat is ready, fire up the grill and get it nice and hot. Then place the meat on the grill and cook. Meats are almost ALWAYS grilled in the Caribbean. A nice, juicy medium rare is going to be best to both preserve the flavors and to keep the meat moist and juicy, and not dried out. We had a thick roast, so I actually seared the meat first to get a nice brown crust on all sides. As I was searing the meat, I was also pan-frying some Caribbean sweet potatoes and peppers (more on that later) as a side dish.
I never like to throw away food if I don’t need to, and this includes sauces and marinades too. I reused the marinade by heating it up in a skillet and then topped my steak with it.
Our Caribbean dinner consisted of the Caribbean jerk steak, sweet potatoes and peppers and a light salad, finished with a very smooth and fruity pinot noir. This is just like what we get in the Caribbean, only we just brought the Caribbean to Colorado this time.
Stay cool, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.