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.

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.

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