Authentic Jamaican Jerk

This past winter, my wife and I went to Jamaica for our honeymoon. It was amazing. Neither of us had ever been to the Caribbean before, and the Reggea-loving island did not disappoint. Outside of the beautiful beaches and outstanding weather, our other favorite part of the trip was the constant supply of Jamaican jerk chicken. While authentic Jamaican jerk is hard to find on the resorts, making friends with a few people down there allowed to experience the real stuff, and the craving for the same flavor has been almost constant.

To be clear, it is really difficult to make Jamaican jerk at home in the same manner they do in Jamaica, because they use freshly cut pimento wood and then cook the various meats on top of it, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and then sauced with a mixture of vinegar and Scotch Bonnet peppers. You probably don't have pimento wood sitting around your home. However, you can mirror the taste of authentic Jamaican jerk by using ground allspice berries, which are available in nearly every grocery store.

The ingredient list for authentic Jamaican jerk is not short, but the preparation is very easy. Simply throw everything in a food processor or blender, and blend until well combined. Then, use it as a marinade for chicken, fish, or pork. You could probably marinate a sandal with this and it would taste good.

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Ingredients:

  • 3 T Freshly Grated Ginger
  • 6 Cloves Garlic
  • 6 Scallions, very bottom stem removed
  • 3 Habanero Peppers (or less, if you like it less spicy)
  • 1/4 Cup Honey
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 T Ground Allspice
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
  • 2 T Chopped Fresh Thyme

Toss everything in a blender or food processor, and process until well combined.

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Recipe:

  1. Put 3 pounds of chicken in a large, zip top bag, and cover with the jerk marinade.
  2. Massage the marinade into the meat, and put into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
  3. After the chicken is marinated, remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
  4. Heat a grill over medium high heat (preferably charcoal for as authentic a flavor as possible) and cook the chicken for approximately 4 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  5. Remove from the grill and allow 5 minutes to rest before serving.

You can use this chicken alongside traditional white rice and beans, or serve it in place of your normal chicken breast for lunch. It is great with roasted sweet potatoes, plantains, or even over zucchini noodles or chickpea pasta. However, if you want something more fun, you can make a tropical Jamaican jerk salad following the steps below:

  1. Gather and chop each of the following fruits and vegetables into bite size portions:
    1. Leaf lettuce
    2. Red tomatoes
    3. Red Onion
    4. Mango
    5. Pineapple
    6. Cucumber
    7. Scallions
    8. Jalapenos (optional)
  2. Combine everything in a large bowl, and toss to combine.
  3. Top the salad with a large squeeze of fresh lime juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a big sprinkle salt. Toss again to combine the salad with the dressing.
  4. Serve the jerk chicken on top of the salad, and take a nice getaway to the Caribbean in your own kitchen.

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