Jamaican jerk is famous throughout the world. The origins of jerk can be traced back to pre slavery days of the Cormantee hunters of West Africa through the Maroons, who were Jamaican slaves that escaped from the British during the invasion of 1655. Jerk was a way of preserving meat. The meat is poked with holes and filled with a spice mixture. The cooking is very important. In the sixties street side vendors came up with a solution to get that smoked pit flavour They cut oil barrels lengthwise and attached hinges, drilling holes in the side to let out the smoke. The barrels were heated by layers of charcoal which added to the smokey flavour.
Preparing Jamaican Jerk seasoning is definitely an art form and everyone has their own jerk recipe. Jamaican Jerk vendors are found throughout the island and tourist flock to try the different styles and recipes. The best and original Jerk seasoning is said to have originated in Portland Jamaica. Rastas in particular don’t have recipes, they just cook. Some of the jerk spice ingredients are Scotch Bonnet Chilli pepper, whole pimento berry, also known as allspice and myrtle pepper, cinnamon bark, thyme, onions, garlic, whole black peppercorns and various other secret ingredients according the cooks preferences and experience. These are all pounded down in a huge mortar and pestle, in the right order. This is to release the flavours in a special way. When you hear people talk of Jamaican chicken, this is probably what they are talking about, but pork, other meats and vegetables can also be jerked.
Jamaican seasoning is used on most meat and fish. This involves rubbing the meat with different spice powders like cinnamon, paprika, cayenne pepper, turmeric and pimento, and then frying, roasting or barbecuing to achieve a unique flavour.