Jerk Seasoning Blend

Jerk Seasoning Blend, AKA Jamaican Jerk, came about as a dry rub for pork, albeit you see it in chicken most often these days. Fact is, it’s way more than just a dry rub, and it rocks on everything from veggies, dressings and marinades, to beef and fish.

Like most signature blends, there really isn’t a go-to version, as every chef has there own swing on it. What you can count on is that it’s a complex mix, often anywhere from 12 to 16 ingredients.

The non-negotiables are serious chile heat at the fore, onion, garlic, cumin, and the warm spices that define Caribbean cuisine – allspice, clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. What else you put in there, and in what proportion, is up to you.

Some folks will argue that the chile must be Scotch Bonnets, and that’s fair, but I’ll say that any chile with decent heat and a complex fruity background does just fine – remember, it’s your blend.

Here’s my current go to – try it, tweak it, make it yours.

Urban’s Jerk Blend

1 Tablespoon granulated Onion

1 Tablespoon granulated Garlic

2-4 teaspoons Hatch Hot Red Chile

2 teaspoons Sea Salt

2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper

2 teaspoons Lemon Thyme

2 teaspoons Mexican Cane Sugar

1 teaspoon ground Allspice

1 teaspoon dried Parsley

1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground Clove

1/4 teaspoon ground Cumin

Jerk Blend

If using whole spices for the pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and cumin, process in a spice grinder to a roughly uniform powder.

Combine all ingredients and run through a single mesh strainer until you have a homogenous blend.

Bottle in clean glass and store in a cool, dry spot out of direct sun.

Genuine Jerk Chicken

If you’re thinking Caribbean and spicy, then truth be told, you’re thinking about Jamaican jerk seasoning. While probably every island claims some variation on the theme, this is arguably the root of that wonderful recipe tree. The combination of chile heat, with a spice mélange often only associated with deserts makes for an unforgettable taste treat.

There are dry and wet variants of the style; the wet marinades and an oven bake, like the one we’ll do here, add a greater depth of flavor to your dish. Dry rubs are great too, and especially lend themselves well to grilling. You can use either variety on chicken, beef, pork and fish. For my mind, chicken is the quintessential jerk dish, so that’s what we’ll do here.

Though it may seem like there are a lot of ingredients, don’t get intimidated; this is a pretty fast process and well worth the effort. You should plan on allowing at least 3 hours for marinating, though you certainly can let things sit overnight and should whenever you have the chance.

Note the great range of potential heat indicated in the recipe – I think you need at least two habaneros to get the heart correct for this stuff, but some folks like or require far more to float their boat. If you’re a neophyte, start conservative – While habaneros aren’t the hottest thing out there, they’re plenty potent enough to really sear you if you’re not ready to handle them.

Jenuine Jamaican Jerk Chicken

+/- 3 pound whole chicken
2 Fresh Limes
3-6 Fresh Green Onions, rough chopped
2-4 cloves Fresh Garlic, rough chopped
2-? Fresh Habanero Chiles, rough chopped
¼ Cup Malt Vinegar
¼ Cup Dark Rum
1 Tablespoon Allspice
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ginger
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon dark brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Thyme
½ Cup Tomato Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce

Add rum and a couple of tablespoons of water to a sauté pan over medium-high heat and simmer until the alcohol is burned off.

If any of your spices are whole, combine them and run them through a spice grinder until evenly blended.

Pour rum into a blender along with the vinegar, onions, garlic, habaneras, allspice, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, sugar, and thyme. Squeeze the juice from both limes in as well.

Blend thoroughly until you have a nice, smooth consistency.

Take 2 Tablespoons of the seasoning blend and transfer to a small glass bowl. Add the ketchup and soy sauce and blend thoroughly. Cover and set aside until you’re ready to serve.

Cut up chickens into appropriate cooking size, (Quarters or better as you please).

Place chicken in a glass dish or bowl, (Gallon ziplocks will do if you don’t have a decent sized glass dish), and pour the jerk marinade in. Thoroughly coat the chicken on all sides with the marinade, massaging it in so it covers completely. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Remove chicken from marinade but leave a nice coating on each piece. Cook to an internal temperature of 165° F, remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

 photo Jerk.jpg

Serve with rice and black beans, Johnny cake, a fresh mango salsa, or a nice cole slaw, with plenty of ice cold Red Stripe!