The Caribbean includes islands and countries as diverse as Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Antilles, Guadeloupe and Martinique, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and The Virgin Islands. Common foods like seafood, chicken and coconut, as well as recipes like jerk and callaloo, unite these islands into a heterogeneous culinary paradise.
Yields 4 cups
All the various wet jerk rubs, dry jerk rubs, and marinades have the same core ingredients: scallions, thyme, Jamaican pimento (allspice), ginger, Scotch bonnet peppers, black pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Jamaican pimento (allspice) is essential; it is more pungent than allspice from elsewhere. The scallions used in Jamaica are more like baby red onions than the green onions we find in our produce sections. The thyme is a very small leafed, intensely flavored English thyme. These are the most critical herbal flavors in jerk seasoning; the next most important flavor is Scotch bonnet peppers.
Jamaicans all grow their own Scotch bonnets, or "country peppers" as they are sometimes called. Scotch bonnets come in several varieties, all of which have a similar "round taste," an intense heat with apricot or fruity overtones. The best substitute for a Scotch bonnet is a fresh habanero pepper.
Combine all the ingredients into a thick, chunky paste. The mixture will keep in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for several months.
Most Jamaicans grind their spices by hand in a mortar and pestle. The whole spices tend to retain more aromatic oils in them and therefore more of a natural pungency. To save time, you can pulverize the spices in a spice grinder or coffee mill, and then add them to the other ingredients.
Traveling Jamaica with Knife, Fork & Spoon
A Righteous Guide To Jamaican Cookery
By Robb Walsh & Jay McCarthy
Photographs by Robb Walsh
$16.95 / Paperback
The Crossing Press
Reprinted by permission
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This page modified January 2007
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