Trial by Fire: Jamaican Jerk’s Origin

By Patty Erd

We joke that Jamaican Jerk Seasoning was named for my husband. Jerk is actually a form of slow cooking done in hand-dug pits. Jerk food is traditionally seasoned with a multitude of spices and flavored by the smoke from pimiento wood. Pimiento wood comes from the tree that produces allspice berries, so this smoke is especially delicious.

Twenty years ago, we had dreams of spending a few months in Jamaica to research the perfect recipe for a jerk blend. That trip was not possible, so we did all the research we could do in cookbooks and magazines.

We narrowed things down by common denominator ingredients. We tried many, many variations. We put a grill in the cobblestone alley next to our shop. Every Saturday through most of the summer, we did several jerk tests with varied ingredients each time. Customers gave us feedback. When our neighbors smelled the wonderful aroma, they also became our official tasters! If you want your new neighbors to like you, I highly recommend the jerk chicken method.



I was disappointed when my husband said our experiment was done and it was time to put this blend on sale. When the coals went cold in our alley, our neighbors kept asking when we would create our next grilling blend.

For great jerk flavor with no grill and almost no effort, read Mike Kutka’s musings on crock pot jerk pork. This is a perfect summer recipe since you don’t need to bake yourself by turning on the oven!




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