Jamaica Jerk (History)
This Jamaican way of cooking food has invaded restaurants and cafés worldwide, adding a hint of spice to cocktail parties and backyard cookouts alike. Just about any meat can be jerked, but the real secret to the flavourful taste is the marinade, a truly Jamaican blend of spices and seasonings. Of course, a homemade jerk marinade is best, but today there are several commendable brands of jerk seasoning that do just fine.
Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from the indigenous people on the island, and the Spanish, British, Africans, Indian and Chinese who have inhabited the island. It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. Jamaican cuisine includes various dishes from the different cultures brought to the island with the arrival of people from elsewhere. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions. In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.
Some Jamaican cuisine dishes are variations on the cuisines and cooking styles brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce. Others are novel and have developed locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and salt fish (cod) (which is the national dish of Jamaica), fried plantain, “jerk“, steamed cabbage and “rice and peas” (pigeon peas or kidney beans). Jamaican Cuisine has been adapted by African, Indian, British, French, Spanish,Chinese influences. Jamaican patties and various pastries and breads are also popular as well as fruit beverages and Jamaican rum.
Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrations, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other areas.
Women selling desserts in Kingston, Jamaica, c. 1899
Cuisine of the Tainos
Hale, Edward Everett, 1822-1909. The Life of Christopher Columbus: from his own letters and journals and other documents of his time. “CHAPTER XII, Refuge at Jamaica.” 1891. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.
Development of the cuisine
The Spanish, the first European arrivals to the island contributed dishes such as the vinegary concoction escovitched fish (Spanish escabeche) contributed by the Spanish Jews. Later, Cantonese/Hakka influences developed the Jamaican patty, an empanada styled turnover filled with spiced meat. African cuisine developed on the island as a result of waves of slavery introduced by the European powers. More Chinese and East Indian influences can also be found in Jamaican cuisine, as a result of indentured labourers who replaced slaves after emancipation brought their own culinary talents (especially curry, which Jamaican chefs sometimes use to season goat meat for special occasions).
African, Indian, American, Chinese and British cuisines are not new to the island. Through many years of British colonialism the cuisine developed many habits of cooking particular to a trading colony. The natives of Jamaica drink the most tea per capita in the Caribbean to this day as a result.
Jamaican Cuisine and the Rastafarians
Jamaican Food Facts The Jamaican cuisine is quite diverse and mention must be made of the Rastafarian influence. Rastafarians have a vegetarian approach to preparing food, cooking, and eating, and have introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes to the Jamaican cuisine. They do not eat pork, and the strict ones do not eat meat, including poultry and fish. There are even some who believe in cooking with little or no salt and cooking in an ‘Ital‘ way.
- Allspice (locally known as “pimento”)
- Avocado (locally known as “pear”)
- Black pepper
- Yuca (locally known as “Cassava”)
- Chayote (locally known as “chocho”)
- Coconut milk
- Green Banana
- Pigeon peas (locally known as “gungo peas”)
- Scotch bonnet (pepper)
- Taro (locally known as “dasheen” or “coco”)
- Jerk spice
- Yam (vegetable)
- Dried and salted cod (locally known as “salt fish”)
- Salt beef
- Cow feet
- Pig tail and ears
- Passion fruit
- Sugar cane
- Browning Sauce
- Boniato (locally known as “sweet potato”)
- Calabaza (locally known as “pumpkin”)
- Gungo pea
- Kidney bean
- Roselle (plant) (locally known as “sorrel”)
- Acerola (locally known as “cherry”)
- Lima bean
- Chondrus crispus
- Tahitian apple (locally known as “June plum”)
- Malay apple (locally known as “apple” or “Otaheite apple”)
Dinner plate with black beans, shredded beef, jerk chicken, rice and plantain
- Ackee and saltfish
- Jerk chicken – grilled Jerk-spiced chicken/pork
- Curry goat/mutton
- Jamaican patties (beef, chicken, vegetarian, saltfish)
- Brown Stew Chicken
- Escoveitch fish (similar to Spanish escabeche)
- Oxtail with broad beans
- Corned Beef and cabbage
- Saltfish with cabbage or callaloo
- Steamed fish
- Jamaican spiced bun
- Mannish Water (Head and “man meat” of Goat soup) – said to be an aphrodisiac. Traditionally eaten at New Year’s Eve
- Coconut Rundown – spicy mackerel and coconut stew
- Fish tea
- Rice and peas – rice stewed with beans and coconut milk. Otherwise known as “Jamaican Coat of Arms”.
- Festival – Jamaican-style sweet fried maize dumpling
- Pilau – a dish containing rice, chicken, pork, shellfish, and vegetables, similar toPaella while the name is derived from the Indian pulav
- Red Peas Soup
- Stewed Peas
- Pepperpot Soup
- Okra (also Okra and saltfish stew)
- Solomon gundy
- Spinners – dumplings shaped by “spinning” them in the hands.
Breads and pastries
Ting grapefruit soda, bottled
Irish Moss drink in can and over ice
- Carrot juice with spices such as nutmeg and vanilla
- Guinness punch with spices such as nutmeg and vanilla
- Ginger beer
- Irish Moss (also called sea moss) a milkshake-like beverage. It is made from Gracilaria spp, rather than Chondrus crispus.
- Mango juice
- Peanut punch
- Sorrel drink
- Tamarind drink
- Bush tea
- Tamarind Fizz
- Cucumber juice
- Otaheiti Apple Juice
- Sour Sop juice
- Hot Chocolate
- Sky Juice
- Ting soda