I was first introduced to the Jerk on my first trip to Jamaica. It was an awakening of my tastebuds that I fell in love with instantaneously. Any Jamaican will tell you the history of the jerk. Traditionally, Jerk was meant to help preserve fresh meats longer but over the course of time it’s become a very popular and well loved seasoning. If you’ve ever visited Jamaica you may have visited one of the road side and street Jerk pits for this tasty meal.
The basis of Jerk seasoning consists of allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, salt and a slight varying ingredient depending on the source. It can be found as a dry spice rub or wet spice rub. The name Jerk comes from the actual massaging of the spices onto the meat — usually chicken or pork.
Since it’s the weekend of Caribana (aka Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival) in Toronto I thought I’d share how to make a wonderful Jerk Pork dinner with your family. Be warned! It’s spicy! So, wash it down with a Ting or Red Stripe okay?
TIPS ON JERKING : Okay, I don’t bother making my own spice rub but instead we’ve ALWAYS used Walkerswood brand of wet spice rub (found in your local Caribbean Grocers) but I’ve also noticed that Grace brand also carries a Jerk spice that I found at my local Grocer. For a pork tenderloin, you’ll want to marinade for 2 to 6 hours and leave it in the fridge to let the flavours soak in. You’ll only need about a teaspoon of the wet jerk rub and work it in baby! Then barbecue or oven bake at the same time/temperature as you would any other pork tenderloin.
PLANTAIN: much like a banana only larger and starchier, this side dish is full of potasium goodness. You can grill or fry them up. Simply peel off the skin and cut on the diagonal about half-inch thick. Brush with olive oil. I’ve just discovered a “healthier” method of cooking by baking them in the oven. Heat up your oven to 450F and use a non-stick cookie sheet (or spread some olive oil on a baking dish before placing the sliced plantain). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The plantain should start to golden. I like to sprinkle a bit of brown sugar (or my hubby says to try real maple syrup) just before finishing off.
EASY RICE & PEAS
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of coconut milk
2 cups of uncooked, long grain rice
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 scotch bonnet pepper do not cut!
1. Pour the liquid from the red kidney beans can into a measuring glass and add the coconut milk to make 4 cups of liquid (if there’s not enough, then just add cold water).
2. Pour the liquids into a medium size pot and add the beans, onions, garlic, thyme, salt and oil. Bring to a boil while stirring. Add uncooked rice and stir for about a minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
3. Place the whole scotch bonnet pepper on top and cover with lid for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the scotch bonnet and gently stir the rice to mix. You can add additional salt according to your taste at this point. Remove the pot from heat and cover for another minute before serving. Serve warm! I would also recommend drizzling any reserved juices over the rice from your jerked meat for added flavour.
Serves 4 to 6.
Now if you don’t feel compelled to make your own Jerk Chicken or Pork visit some of the finest Caribbean restaurants in your city.
If you’re in Toronto I recommend…
Mr. Jerk has 6 locations in Toronto. www.mrjerk.ca
Albert’s Real Jamaican at 542 St. Clair Ave.West www.albertsrealjamaicanfoods.ca
The Real Jerk is in the process of moving locations but you may just see them set up a pop-up food truck at this weekend parade. You can keep on tip of their where abouts here on their facebook page. www.facebook.com/therealjerktoronto