The Famous Jerk Pork

It is hard to believe that Jerk Pork was not as widely available, or well-known, in Jamaica, as it is now. When we were young, the only place that was known for Jerk Pork was Boston Beach in the parish of Portland. We remember fondly a trip to Portland (in the 1970s) to visit friends, and being introduced to this spicy, delicious, and different way of cooking pork.
Jamaican Jerk Pork is believed to have roots from the 17th century when Maroons, who were slaves that had escaped to the mountains, used African meat-cooking techniques combined with native Jamaican ingredients and seasonings. To prevent capture by British soldiers, the Maroons were continuously on the move; and were not always able to stop to cook the wild pigs that they caught. To help preserve the meat, the Maroons seasoned it with a blend of spices that included salt, scotch bonnet peppers, and pimento (also called allspice). This seasoning protected the meat until it could be cooked and smoked over a fire made with pimento wood.
There are several theories of the origin of the word “Jerk”: one is that it comes from jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill it with spices prior to cooking.

Jerk Pork

Jerk Chicken

“Jerk” is now synonymous with Jamaica and is known worldwide. Nowadays, we jerk everything – pork, chicken, beef, turkey, shrimp, fish, vegetables, etc., etc. Jerk Stands can now be found on almost every corner in Jamaica (including hotels), but authentic Jerk Pork is still cooked over pimento wood and covered with tin.
A recipe for Jerk Seasoning can be found in our Cookbook, Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes, and there are dozens of ready-made seasonings, sauces, and marinades available for purchase in your neighborhood ethnic store or online at
Our favorite is Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning.

Back-to-School Memories

Stories abound about the horrors of boarding schools; however, to the Pilliner girls, it was everything but a bad experience.

In our later life, when conversation turned to high-school days and it became known that we went to boarding school, people were aghast … “Oh, your parents didn’t love you?”, “You were being punished?”. On the contrary, our parents loved us very much and that is one of the reasons why we went to boarding school. St. Hilda’s is an all-girls school and, at the time, was one of the best secondary schools (equivalent of high school in the U.S.) in Jamaica. However, it was far enough away from our home (about 1½ hours), that it was neither convenient, nor desirable, to travel back and forth each day as roads and cars were not what they are today.

We were never abused, bullied, nor mistreated at boarding school. Our only bad memory is getting up at 6:00 a.m. to shower – the showers were in the basement and there was no hot water!! Other than that, we both look back fondly on our high-school days.St. Hilda's In addition to the normal holiday periods, students were allowed to go home every third weekend, and parents and friends were allowed to visit on Sunday afternoons. But it was the return to school that was always exciting: Dad would pack the Ford Prefect with our suitcases (we called them grips, back then), and Tuck Boxes (“Tuck” is an old British term for snacks eaten by children at school). Ford PrefectDad’s packing ability was legendary, and we still can’t figure out how he was able to get all those grips, boxes and people – two Pilliner sisters; one Pilliner brother who went to York Castle which was an all-boys boarding school in close proximity to St. Hilda’s; and one or two friends who also attended our school – into such a small car.

Every day at 4:00 p.m., we all would assemble in the school’s dining room for tea-time. In addition to a school-provided snack, we were allowed to eat treats that we brought from home and kept in our Tuck Boxes: water crackers, shortbread cookies, jams, jellies, cheese spread, and Smarties® (similar to M & Ms®), to name a few. But it was the baked goodies that our Mother made, that we enjoyed the most. Of course, such treats would have to be eaten within a few days of our return to school, as Tuck Boxes were made of wood and were stored in a room that was not refrigerated.

Rock CakesOne of our favorites was her famous Rock Cakes which stayed delicious and fresh for several days if kept in an airtight container. Not that they lasted more than a day, as Mother was renown for her baking and cooking, and we always shared, sometimes willingly, with our friends. Rock Cakes were delicious with tea or “wash” which is what we called the lemonade that St. Hilda’s served at tea time.

The recipe for Rock Cakes can be found in our book Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes. As a treat for you, we are including it in this post, and we are sure you will enjoy them so much that you will want to experience the deliciousness of all the other recipes in our book.

Who to tell, you may want to tuck one, or two, Rock Cakes into your child’s lunch box.


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ + ⅓ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground orange peel
½ cup margarine
½ cup raisins
1 egg, beaten
½ cup milk

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Grease cookie tray.

1. Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, granulated sugar, nutmeg, and orange peel in a medium sized bowl.
2. Add margarine to flour mixture and use a dough blender or finger tips to process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3. Add raisins.
4. Blend beaten egg and milk.
5. Add to flour mixture and combine using a fork. Do not over mix.
6. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie tray.
7. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Cool on wire rack.
Serve at room temperature.
Makes 10 to 12 rock cakes.

It’s Easter Time… so where is the “Bun and Cheese”?

bun and cheeseIf you have a copy of ‘Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes’ (and if not, why not?), you will know the importance of “bun and cheese” to the Pilliner children when they were young: it was a means to keep them quiet during the 3-hour Good Friday church service.
However, “bun and cheese” was not just popular on Good Friday in the Pilliner household, it was, and still is, a Jamaican tradition during the Easter season. Just like when there is a party – there is always Curry Goat*; or at Christmas time – the drink, Sorrel*, is a must; if it is Easter time, then “Bun and Cheese” is the thing.
Buns were always available from bakeries and supermarkets, but some households made their own.
The recipe for ‘Easter Stout Bun’ can be found in our Cookbook, but here is a recipe for Bun that does not contain stout (dark beer). This recipe was found in one of the dozens of books in which Mother Pilliner wrote down her recipes. No book or paper surface was safe from Mother’s love of recording recipes; in fact, this Bun recipe was found in a 1968 Diary that was filled with recipes amongst the daily recordings of one of Pilliner daughters whilst she was at boarding school.
bun and cheese2Quick Easter Bun
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon browning (burnt sugar)
3 tablespoons margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
1. Mix and sift flour, baking powder, and spices.
2. Heat (do not boil) milk, browning, margarine, brown sugar, and vanilla flavoring in a small saucepan.
2. Add beaten eggs to cooled milk mixture.
3. Add egg/milk mixture to dry ingredients.
4. Fold in cherries and raisins.
5. Pour into baking pan.
6. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until knife inserted comes out clean.
Serve at room temperature with cheese and/or butter.

Happy Easter, and be sure to enjoy some “Bun and Cheese”!

*Recipe can be found in ‘Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes’.


Slavery was, is, and will always be abhorrent, barbarous, inhuman and inhumane; but there is no doubt that the diverse and flavorful Jamaican cuisine benefitted greatly from the Slave Trade.

Ackee is native to West Africa, and it is believed that the plant was brought to Jamaica on a slave ship sometime before 1778. The name is derived from the West African name “Akye Fufo”. The fruit’s scientific name Blighia sapida was given in honor of Captain William Bligh (The Mutiny on The Bounty) who transported the fruit from Jamaica to the Royal Botanic Gardens in England in 1793, and thereby introduced it to the scientific world. Ackee is now the national fruit of Jamaica and is one of the main ingredients in the popular dish “Ackee and Saltfish” which is the national dish of Jamaica.

The Ackee fruit grows on a large tree. The fruit is pear-shaped and as it ripens it turns from green to a bright red, to yellow-orange; then opens to reveal three large, black seeds surrounded by yellow flesh. Ackee fruit must ripen and open naturally on the tree before picking, otherwise it is poisonous.

Prior to cooking, the Ackee flesh is removed from the seeds, cleaned, and washed. The flesh is then boiled for approximately 30 minutes and the water discarded.

Ackee and Saltfish (recipe can be found in our Cookbook “My Favorite Jamaican Recipes”) is enjoyed by Jamaicans for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

The Ackee fruit is processed in brine, canned and exported from Jamaica, so that it may be enjoyed worldwide! Find canned Ackee on our Jamaican Products page or in your favorite ethnic store. Try it… you’ll love it!!!

Sugar Cane and Dad Pilliner

*NOTE: This Post is in memory of the father of two of the Jamaican Daughters of ‘Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes’Over the years, Sugar Cane has meant different things to different people in Jamaica:
► Wealth to 18th century Europeans after they discovered how much Sugar changed and enhanced the taste of their food;
► Slavery to the Africans who became essential to working the sugar plantations and processing plants;
► Indentured labor to the Chinese and East Indians who were brought to the island to work the plantations after slavery was abolished;
► An essential ingredient to cooks and bakers who used Molasses;
► Fuel and material to the manufacturers who used Bagasse (the fibrous dry material left over after the juice was squeezed out);
► Fun and ruin to the consumers of the ever popular Rum; and
► To the Pilliner children (two daughters and one son), Sugar Cane meant sitting around with our parents, enjoying the cane that Dad peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces. We would gather around him while chewing on the pieces of cane, swallowing the delicious juice, and listening to him tell “old time” stories or whistle a merry tune. But, the most telling part of this memory is that Dad did not particularly like eating cane, he just peeled it because he knew we all loved it and he enjoyed it vicariously through us.
Fittingly, one of our “cane” man’s first jobs was as a machinist at Frome, a large sugar cane processing plant in the south-western parish of Westmoreland.
Thank you, Dearest Dad, for this and many, many other happy memories.

Bananas and Jamaican Cuisine


The Banana plant can be found in almost every tropical country of the world. Bananas are some of the most consumed food worldwide, and Jamaicans eat their fair share of this delicious and versatile fruit. There are many different varieties of bananas – in Jamaica and the Americas, the most popular are the Cavendish and the Plantain varieties.

Banana youngA reddish-purple bud (also known as the heart) grows from the center of the plant, gradually opens and exposes tiered rows of small flowers some of which develop into fruit. Individual bananas are called “fingers”. Each row forms approximately 14 to 20 fingers making up a “hand”.Banana ready for harvestingWhen the hanging cluster of fruit is ready for harvesting, there are usually 7 to 9 hands on what is known as a “bunch”.Bananas green and ripeWhen unripe (green), the Banana can be boiled, fried, or grated and made into a porridge or dumplings.Banana typical Jamaican breakfastThis photo shows a typical Jamaican breakfast – boiled, green bananas with Calalloo and Saltfish (recipe can be found in our Cookbook).Banana BreadBanana FrittersWhen ripe, the Banana can be enjoyed raw as a snack, fried, baked, or used to make Banana Bread and Banana Fritters. (The recipes for both of these desserts can be found in our Cookbook.)

Jamaica has been exporting Bananas to England since the 1920’s. The very popular song, ‘Day-O’ (‘The  Banana Boat Song’) is a traditional Jamaican folk song written in the 1950’s from the point of view of a night-shift wharf worker loading bananas onto a ship bound for England. Daylight has come, the shift is over and the worker wants the tally man (the person who keeps a record of the number of bunches loaded by each worker), to give him a record of the total number of bunches he loaded for the night, so that he can go home.
Here are a few verses of this catchy and interesting song. Many different versions have been recorded throughout the years; and the lyrics and music can be found on our Video page here.

Day-o! Day-ay-ay-o!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Day! Me say day! Me say day!
Me say day! Me say day-ay-ay-o!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Work all night on a drink a’ rum!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Stack banana till the mornin’ come!
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan’ go home.


It is ironic that when the breadfruit was brought to Jamaica from Tahiti by Captain Bligh in the 17th century as a cheap source of food for African slaves it was not favorably received – they considered it too bland and almost inedible.
But now, ask any Jamaican and they will tell you that there is nothing more delicious than roasted breadfruit!
Well, that might not be quite true, because a breadfruit that is roasted and then fried is even more delicious. And a breadfruit that is slightly ripe, roasted, and then fried – is amazingly delicious!
In Jamaica, the breadfruit is consumed when it is mature — it can then be boiled and used in soups and salads as a substitute for white potato. When fully-matured — it can then be roasted or baked, and also fried.

breadfruit on tree

breadfruit ready to be roasted

breadfruit roasted over an open flame

roasted breadfruit halves peeled

roasted breadfruit slices ready to be eaten

fried breadfruit slices ready to be eaten

Welcome to Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes!

Thank you for visiting us at this new site for our recently published cookbook: Our Favorite Jamaican Recipes: Three Jamaican Daughters Remember Their Mothers’ Cooking. The cookbook is available in paperback and as a Kindle e-book.

As the sub-title suggests, our cookbook includes recipes of the meals, drinks, and desserts, that we enjoyed during our youth. We have also related a few of our memories of growing up in Jamaica.

In future posts, we will write about some of the recipes and their ingredients. We will relate more of our childhood memories – we had a fabulous childhood that we now can only describe as, idyllic. Of course, there must have been a few bad times, but somehow we don’t seem to remember them now.

Tell us about your experiences preparing and/or enjoying Jamaican food. We know everyone loves jerk chicken and pork – we’ve included a recipe for a jerk seasoning that you can make and enjoy at home.

Be sure to tell us of the food that you particularly liked while you were on vacation in Jamaica, or during your youth if you grew up in the “land of wood and water”.

We will tell you of the foods we enjoy– peeled sugar cane is a delicious, sweet treat to chew on. There were some meals our Mothers cooked that some family members didn’t care for (tripe), and others that we asked for all the time (escoveitch fish). You will find the recipes for both these meals and others in our cookbook.

Thanks for reading this short, first post – we will chat soon.

Trudy, Maureen, and Rebecca