There is nothing more Jamaican in food than Jerk Chicken. It is iconic and from what I hear delicious. As a vegetarian I had to go in search of the means to get photos and how to make it! Which I did. The lab cook, Ms. Precious, as she is called, and Ms. Junie obliged my request to watch them make this. We have a group of University students from New York here and this worked perfectly into the time line.
So JERK CHICKEN:
First thing is to thaw chicken if it is frozen, quarter it and then season it. There are a multitude of ways to do this, depending on your taste and style. Ms. Precious used a pre-made sauce from Walker’s Wood, ST. ANN. She poured it into the pan and slipped all the chicken into the pan. Mixing it a bit before Ms. Junie blended up the scallion, onion and garlic into a paste. Next they add in the Maggi seasoning and mix it all together and then the chicken sits covered for several hours before cooking.
Most people think that the seasoning is what makes it Jerk. That is not entirely the case. True Jerk is dependent on cooking over an open flame, preferably ignited pimento wood coal. This usually happens either in a BBQ made from a metal drum on the side, or from car rims, literally, on a stand. I have even seen old bed springs used to grill the meat. Jamaicans are very versatile like that! It is not truly jerk if it has not been cooked over an open fire.
Typically the jerk seasoning will consist of the following ingredients to some degree: garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, ground pimento (allspice), scallion, onion, sugar, thyme, salt and black pepper. Other spices can be added: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. These ingredients are all mixed in with oil and any of the following liquids or all of them: soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, and white vinegar. The final step is to blend this into a paste. See the actual recipe here.
As the coals start to get white, this is when the meat is applied to the grill. This can take awhile to cook as the meat is quite thick. Chickens here look very different from chicken back home. It tends to be meatier and thicker skinned. The meat will be turned and brushed with the leftover marinade several times over the grilling process. A surprise to me though, was that Ms. Precious sprayed the chicken with Red Stripe beer as it was cooking, it adds a little bit of flavor, keeps the coals moist but also keeps the chicken quite moist.
In the end, almost any meat eater loves this. Even some of us vegetarians love the smell of the Jerk pan. I know I do, but mostly I smell the coal and the spices, not really the meats!