No, not the Steve Martin movie of the same name, (though “Tonight You Belong to Me” does bring back happy memories of the Flannestad wedding festivities,) instead we’re talking about the traditional Jamaican spice blend.
For some reason, I often see jars labeled “jerk” seasoning in grocery stores, not to mention, even more inexplicably, dry jerk seasoning.
Maybe I’m weird, but jerk seasoning really it is not all that hard to make, so to me, the idea of buying it seems crazy. Especially the dry stuff which must essentially taste like sawdust.
Main components of Jerk Seasoning.
The Spice is almost always provided by the dried fruit of the Allspice Tree (aka Jamaica pepper,”Kurundu” Myrtle pepper, pimento, or newspice) whose botanical name is “Pimenta dioica.” Like all spices, it is best to buy this whole and grind it yourself. Once spices are ground they have a shelf life that can be measured in days. Whole, they can keep for months or years.
The “Herb” is usually just Thyme (aka Thymus vulgaris).
The “Acid” is traditionally provided by vinegar.
The “Heat” is traditionally from Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chiles.
The “Savory” is from Green or white onions and garlic.
And lastly the “Sweet” is usually from sugar.
So let’s play:
1/2 tsp. whole Coriander Seed
2 tsp. whole Allspice
1 tsp. Dried Winter Savory
1 tsp. Dried Chile Flakes
1 tsp. Whole White Pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme
1/2 White Onion, roughly chopped
1″ Piece Ginger, thinly sliced against the grain
2 Cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
Juice 1/2 Lime
Juice 1/2 Orange
Splash Flavorful Rum (In Jamaica THE Rum is Wray and Nephew White Overproof Rum)
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
Drizzle Olive Oil
In a spice grinder (I use a bladed coffee mill) grind the dried spices until they are fine. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, lime juice, orange juice, and olive oil to the bowl of a blender or similar device (even a mortar and pestle). Add the ground spices and sugar. Process until it is a smooth paste.
Smear over your favorite meats or vegetables, allow to marinade for as much or as little time as you have, and grill or roast until cooked.
Jerk Marinated Roasted Chicken, Braised Soy Beans with Collard Greens, Flat Bread.
In regards ingredients, I don’t know why I started adding ginger. It’s been years (possibly decades) since I started making this recipe and can’t remember. Ginger is commonly used in Jamaica and the Caribbean, however I can find no traditional jerk recipes that call for it. I used Chile flakes instead of fresh peppers because that is what I had in the house this week. Using Citrus juice for the acid, instead of vinegar.
The best part, or maybe the worst part if you’re the sort of person who prefers the smell of hand sanitizer and cleaning solution to food, is that your house will smell like Christmas for several days after roasting jerk seasoned food. Beats the hell out of potpourri.