Cooking in the Islands
Jerk Barbecue on the Grill
In Jamaica, smoky jerk huts alongside the road, with seats
around a circular counter, serve the famous Jamaican jerk barbecue.
Originally whole pigs were deboned, splayed out and cooked on grills made of
pimento sticks over pits about a foot and a half above the fire. Now
half-cut steel drums are frequently used.
But what remains the same is the wood fire, smoldering green
allspice (pimento) branches, the same plant that flowers into allspice
itself, so-called for the hint of many spices in its flavor. And the
slow-smoke cooking, an age-old Caribbean practice used to cure meat, gives
barbecue and buccaneer alike their names (see
More than the cooking method, jerk is famous for its fiery
hot seasoning, centered around the
Scotch bonnet chile pepper, considered the hottest pepper in the world,
contributing its distinctive, apricot-like aroma and fruit pulp.
3 tablespoons ground roasted allspice
1 stick of cinnamon (or a teaspoon ground)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bunch of scallions, chopped in 1" sections
1 Scotch bonnet pepper, sectioned
The allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper
contribute the spice base. Thyme and scallions are added along with the
central ingredient, the Scotch bonnet pepper.
Packaged jerk seasoning or part or all fresh ingredients may
be used. If making this fresh, additional jerk seasoning can be made for
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
To create a paste, as a combination marinade and rub,
add cooking oil, red wine vinegar and soy sauce. Some add light brown
sugar or dark rum. This approach uses more liquid for a longer marinade and
shorter cooking times than the 4 hours with the drier rub.
Marinade by rubbing the paste on the portions (oil first if
desired) 4 hours earlier in the day if possible.
Pork, Chicken, You Name It!
Use pork ribs (about a pound to a person) or pork tenderloin
(1/2 lb. a person) or chicken (a quarter or half a person), or chicken
thighs, wings, drumsticks, breasts, possibly boneless and even skinless,
hamburger or steaks--it's all good!
Consider the time until the meal is going to be served,
allowing conversation time with drinks and appetizers, and finish the
portions hot off the grill.
"Butterfly" the pork tenderloins by making a radial cut and
spread out to 1" thick sheets. Poke shallow holes in the meat and rub in the
jerk seasoning paste to marinate. This method is not only an excellent part
of the pig, but splays the pork out like the real thing.
Smoke and Grill
Fire up the grill with
gel fire starter. Determine and create high, low and
indirect heat areas of the grill. Spread out charcoal in double, single and
Smoke the grill by putting wood chips on the charcoal or a
pan of chips on the gas grill. Pimento or
torch wood is preferred.
Have a glass of water handy. Dip your hand in the water, and
fling excess water to douse dripping oil-fire flareups.
Propane and other grills are also widely used.
Pork. Brown the pork tenderloins 8-10
minutes on each side. A drip pan can be put directly under the meat to catch
the dripping as the basis of a sauce or gravy for a side dish. If so, allow
more cooking time.
Chicken. For chicken, reduce the portion
sizes to single pieces, such as thighs, or even cut each of these in half.
Brown the skin on one side on a high grill heat area. Cook on a low heat for
5-8 minutes. Then slow smoke for about 45-60
minutes until it reaches
170°F (77°C). Or, until the juices run
clear or the wing bone can be turned easily.
Here's an excellent, but ,low-cost
Prep Method: Boil & Simmer
An alternative method is to pre-cook by bringing to a boil
and then simmer pork ribs (30 minutes) and chicken (30 minutes or until
tender) with the usual suspects like onion, celery, bay leaves, etc. until
tender (use/save the cooking water for stock/broth or cook the beans/rice at
the same time). Finish on the grill.
Whelk in a Butter Sauce as an appetizer along with tannia chips (or
a Jamacian fried cornbread called
Festival) and Jamaican Red Stripe beer and
Hot off the grill, serve the Jerk Barbecue main dish
Char-Roasted Breadfruit and
Grilled Garlic Cassava Bread.
Desert is a frozen pina colada at a bar later in the
Coordinating this dinner is easy. Marinade the jerk barbecue
earlier in the day. Fire the grill about an hour before dinner time when the
jerk barbecue is served. Put the breadfruit, chicken and ribs on the grill
right away. Prep the whelk appetiser and grilled garlic.
About 1/2 hour before the jerk barbecue is served, put the
garlic on the grill.
When guests arrive, serve drinks and chips. Then put on the
whelk appetiser and cook in front of guests. Serve when ready.
About 10 minutes before dinner service, put pork tenderloins
on grill, if any. Finish up the breadfruit and keep warm on top of grill.
Then finish garlic and place bread on grill.
Baked or Mashed Breadfruit
a smoky flavor, bury a
(3-4 lb.) in the charcoal embers (or on a hot gas grill) for up to a hour
until charred and soft (see one
recipe). Serve in wedges with oil or butter, salt and pepper (drawing by
Dee Carstarphen from
Maverick Sea Fare).
The bland taste provides a nice balance for the fiery jerk.
Or lop off the top, scoop out the insides, mix up like
mashed potatoes with butter, coconut cream and so on, stuff back in the its
casing, wrap in foil, place on the low-heat part of the grill and serve
Undercook an extra breadfruit for use as hash browns in the
morning. Simply grate and brown in a skillet with a little cooking oil or
butter. Salt and pepper to taste.
"breadfruit fritter" in the French croquette style.
Grilled Whelk in Garlic
Also, if the snorkelers or shell collectors have been
successful finding whelk, we
can grill these for an appetizer.