Want to taste the Caribbean? Take a bite of proper jerk chicken. Sink your teeth into the tender meat and feel the soft, white sand on your feet; let the spices the warm you like sun kissing your skin and let that unshakeable Caribbean zest for life course through your body.
Done well, jerk is the perfect way to barbeque chicken. It’s the perfect blend of spices, smokiness and sweetness. So what’s in the Jerk that makes it so special?
The secret revealed, well almost.
Whilst every self respecting chef will guard their jerk chicken with their life, most versions will include these ingredients:
Allspice berries: sweet, spicy berries. These are ground to release their unique flavour which can best be described as a combination of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon
Scotch bonnet pepper: spicy pepper unique to the Caribbean, which is 40 times hotter than your standard jalapeno
Fresh ginger: this grows in great swathes in the hot islands
A jerk drum: you know those big canisters that you often see the meat cooked in? They are integral to ensuring that the chicken retains that smokey flavour
Passion: chefs sometimes compare cooking Jerk chicken to raising a child: you have to dedicate all your attention to it, care for it and put your heart and soul in it. Only then will you be able to get a perfectly cooked piece of jerk chicken
Scallions or green onions
The origins of Jerk Chicken:
The actual marinade was originally invented by the Taino and Arawak people, who migrated from Central America to the Caribbean islands.
For years they enjoyed the glorious flavour of jerk in utter secrecy. This all stopped when a group of slaves who managed to escape their captors fleeing into the mountains of Jamaica and the neighbouring islands.
The group (who called themselves the Maroons) befriended the local tribes, picked up all their culinary secrets and infused them with their own tradition. Jerk as we know it today was born.
Thankfully for us, the Maroons were much more generous with their cooking and the word quickly spread about the mouth watering chicken being cooked on the island of Jamaica. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and jerk chicken is bringing joy to dinner tables all over the world.
Sounds lovely, but where can I get it?
You’ll be glad to know you don’t have to go to Jamaica to taste this delicious dish. In fact a couple of taps of the Just Eat app could get you jerk chicken straight to you door. All you have do is hope for sunshine, maybe grab a can of Red Stripe or a tropical juice and let the Caribbean come to you.