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” 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 www.amazon.com.
Our favorite is Walkerswood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. http://www.walkerswood.com/product_traditional_jerk_seasoning.php