Jerk seasoning provides the signature flavoring for Jamaica’s barbecued meats and seafood. If you’ve ever stopped at a roadside jerk hut on the island, you’ve enjoyed the festival of flavors that go into jerk: spicy, hot and sweet, “like a carnival where all the elements come together in your mouth,” writes Helen Willinsky in “Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style.” The foundation of jerk seasoning is the Scotch bonnet pepper, a variety of habanero, along with scallions, allspice and thyme. Of course, you can recreate the flavors right at home.
Things You'll Need
- Scotch bonnet pepper
- Additional herbs, spices to taste
Create a jerk rub to add flavor to raw meat by chopping an onion and several scallions, both the white and green parts. Add the alliums along with salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh thyme leaves, salt, ground Jamaican allspice and ground cinnamon to a mortar. Mince Scotch bonnet or habanero chilies and add them to the mortar. Grind all the ingredients with a pestle. Store extra paste in a jar in the refrigerator.
Mix spices to create dry jerk seasoning, built around equal parts onion flakes and onion powder, along with lesser amounts of ground dried thyme, salt, sugar, dried chives and sugar. Add little touches of nutmeg, cinnamon, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. Swirl all the ingredients together and store them in a tightly closed jar.
Modify a jerk rub to create a marinade. Use the ingredients in Step 1 and mix them in a blender or food processor, along with soy sauce, vegetable oil and cider vinegar. Calibrate the heat of the marinade by adding hot pepper sauce for more heat or by removing the seeds and membranes from the chilies for a milder marinade.