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AUTHENTIC JAMAICAN JERK FOOD  |  Austin's Choice for Jerk Food  |  737-802-4327

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What is Jamaican Jerk cooking?

Jerk (Jerking) refers to a way meats are seasoned, marinated and cooked. This method of food preparation comes from Jamaica.

In 1494 Columbus landed on the island. There he found the island inhabited by Arawak Indians. The island was then called by the Arawakan word Xaymaca, meaning "Land of Wood and Water" He claimed the island as Spanish enclave and subsequently enslaved the Arawaks. The Arawaks were not used to the kind of grueling work that the Spaniards required of them, so it was not long after that most of them died and were replaced by African slaves.

In 1655 the British arrived on the island and quickly dispatched the Spaniards, renamed the island from Santiago to Jamaica while inheriting the slaves. After the arrival of the British, and during the battle to take the island some of the slaves took advantage of the confusion during the transition and escaped from the plantations and took refuge in the heavily forested Blue Mountains located on the eastern end of the island's mountainous backbone. These runaway slaves quickly became known as the Maroons. They knew that they would be constantly hunted so they became adept at evading and out maneuvering the British soldiers and very few would return alive to their bases, hence the nickname the Maroons.

The Blue Mountains were also populated then by wild boars, which was a great source of meat for the Maroons. However the boars would prove very difficult to capture and kill. When they would kill one of these boars, they had to find a way of preserving the meat as the next kill could be weeks away. Using a wide array of wild berries, plant leaves, tree barks and peppers they learned how to preserve the meat. They used stones to pound and grind the ingredients into a paste which was then applied to the meat as a marinade. Chief among the ingredients was the pimento, (also known as pimenta) widely known today as allspice. Not only were the berries from the pimento trees used in the marinade but the branches and leaves were utilized as a part of the cooking process. The meat was then slow cooked over the pimento wood while covered with the leaves.

This method of cooking is still practiced in Jamaica today and is evidenced by the proliferation of Jerk huts and stands all over the island. The cuisine has evolved significantly since the invention by the Maroons to include everything from pork, to beef, chicken, fish, goat and even vegetables. Also, over the millennia several new spices were concocted to replace the indigenous ingredients from the mountains. The basic ingredients of pimento, scotch bonnet pepper, and nutmeg are still being used by manufacturers of jerk seasoning and marinades in the marketplace today. The cooking methods have also evolved and have been adapted to modern food preparation equipment, especially here in North America.

At Jamaican Jerk we use as our base one of the commercially available jerk seasoning. Our preference is the Walkerswood™ produced jerk seasoning. We add some specialty spices of our own, thus creating our unique Jerk marinade blend. This "tweaking" allows us to vary or customize the marinade to our customers' taste preferences, while still maintaining that uniquely Jamaican jerk flavor and without subduing the natural flavor of the meat.

Modified TescanWe cook our meats and fish on a Santa Maria style grill with Argentine grates over a natural hardwood live fire or gas fire. The Argentine grates allow the excess juices from the meats to run off thus eliminating flare-ups. The juices collected in the basting tray is used later as a sauce base. Although lump charcoal can produce a reliable and steady heat source we prefer not to limit ourselves to that heat source alone. Our preference is to use live fire to cook our meats, much like roasting versus barbecuing. At times we use a combination of hardwood and LPG depending on the required final result of the cooked fare. Our style of grill allows for the easy raising and lowering of the cooking surface to vary the cooking temperature as needed. Additionally since all the natural flavor of the wood is destroyed during the charring process, there is nothing extra to be gained from using charcoal as a heat source compared to wood. Pimento wood used for additional flavoring is in short supply nowadays, so when needed we use alternate sources of hardwood to fire our grills.