Most of us have tried or at least heard about jerk. Jerk chicken, ribs, shrimp or even cauliflower (what about the controversial Jerk Rice?), what exactly is jerk? Here is what you need to know.
What does jerking mean?
Many believe that jerk is the combination of two culinary techniques: charqui and barbacoa. Charqui is a preservation process where the meat is seasoned, cooked and dried so it can last longer. The result is something similar to what we know as jerky. Barbacoa, created by the Taino people in the Caribbean, is the process of cooking meat over an open fire or in a whole covered with leaves. This cooking method originated barbecue as we know today.
Jerking is the best of both worlds: the meat is covered with spices and cooked over a barbecue. Anything that can be barbecued can be jerked, including meat, fruit and vegetables. They are covered in jerk spice and cooked slowly over a smoking wood fire (the wood often comes from the allspice tree). There are many ways to do a jerk barbecue and just as many different jerk spice recipes, but 'jerking' always involves covering the meat with spices and barbecuing it.
The Jerk Spice
The jerk spice can be either a dry rub or a marinade. It is difficult to say what goes into a jerk marinade or jerk rub. No two recipes are the same, but some ingredients are present in most of them. The marinade often includes scallions, onions, Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice and thyme. The dry rub usually has allspice, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, chillies, and garlic. A jerk made with a dry rub is crispier, while one made with a marinade is juicier. Either way, you will have a delicious result, no matter which jerk spice you use.
Hungry for more?
We know that making a traditional jerk is a long process. Most of us have busy schedules and don't have that kind of time. Cool Runnings developed a series of sauces, dry rubs, marinades and pastes packed with the traditional Jamaican jerk flavour, but without all the hard work.
Time to eat!
If you like Jerk, check some of our best recipes: