Ackee and Saltfish: Jamaican National Dish & Jamaican Breakfast
Ackee and Saltfish is known island wide as both Jamaica’s National Dish and as Jamaican Breakfast. Ironically neither of the major ingredients come from Jamaica. As an eco lodge and eco resort, it’s our duty to educate guests and travelers about Jamaican culture and traditions. Jamaican food has a history as diverse and fascinating as the country itself . Since ackee is not consumed anywhere else in the world, there is no dish more distinctly Jamaican than Ackee and Saltfish. In this article Camp Cabarita Eco Resort explores:
- Where is Ackee From?
- What is Ackee?
- What is Saltfish
- How is Ackee and Saltfish made?
- What does Ackee and Saltfish Taste Like?
- Ackee and Saltfish Served at Eco Resort
Where is Ackee From?
The first ackee tree was introduced to Jamaica from West Africa. The ackee tree (Blighia sapida) is indigenous to Africa where ackee trees are still grown to make a variety of products including soaps and medicine. The climate in Jamaica was conducive to this unique and productive fruit tree which fruits twice per year. Jamaica is the only country where Ackee is cultivated for food. Several international organization are making an effort to educate African that ackee is nutritious food if properly prepared. The mature ackee fruit is nutrient dense with high amounts of healthy fat and highly absorbable protein. Ackee grows almost everywhere in Jamaica, although Clarendon and St Elizabeth parishes have the highest production.
The Ackee Fruit
The fruit turns red and then splits open to reveal three fleshy yellow sections each with a black seed. Ackee fruits are only picked from the tree once the pods start to open, which indicates that they are ripe. Unripened pods are actually poisonous and can even be deadly! When prepared fresh it’s easy to tell if Ackee is safe (ripe), that’s obviously not the case with commercially canned fruit. Ackee imports to the United States were banned in 1970 and remained so until 2000. After widespread demand, the FDA established safety guidelines and standards, and granted permits to several companies to import Ackee from Jamaica and Haiti. Ackee Trees bear fruit from January to March and again from June to August.
What is Saltfish?
What Jamaicans refer to as “Saltfish” is in fact Atlantic cod from Newfoundland. During the late 1500’s Dutch traders with a taste for Caribbean sugar, molasses and rum traded salt preserved Cod with Jamaica, Haiti and Barbados. So called salt fish was a major export for the Dutch. To this day, salt is used to totally dehydrate the cod which makes refrigeration unnecessary. Salt fish provided plantation owners with an inexpensive source of protein . Preserved fish was a practical “shelf stable food” for Jamaica’s tropical climate and slave ships . Salted fish has been a staple of the Jamaican diet ever since.
How is Ackee and Saltfish made?
The fruit and seed is plucked from the pod which is discarded. Ackee is then de-seeded, cleaned, added to a pot of boiling water and boiled for around 15-20 minutes. Saltfish is soaked overnight to remove most of the salt and rehydrate the filets.. The boiled ackee and reconstituted fish are sautéd with onions, scotch bonnet peppers, tomatoes, and spices. The dish is often served with bammy and tomatoes. Although Ackee and Saltfish is known as Jamaican Breakfast, it is commonly served as lunch or dinner as well. Ackee can also be paired with corned pork, mackerel, bacon or beef for other dishes.
What does Ackee and Saltfish Taste Like?
Ackee and Saltfish is a savory, satisfying breakfast option. The ackee has a buttery, creamy texture. Some people liken it to cheese or eggs. It is counterbalanced by the slightly salty taste of the fish. Often it is accompanied with breadfruit, fried plantain, green banana, dumplings, ‘Johnny cakes’ (balls of fried dough) or shallow-fried cassava bread.
Jamaica’s National Dish Served at Camp Cabarita Eco Resort
Ackee and Saltfish has become the iconic breakfast of Jamaica and it has now become an export to the Jamaican diaspora in the United States. Canned fruit does makes it possible to enjoy this great dish year round. Because our eco resort serves as much fresh food as possible Ackee and Saltfish is a signature dish at Camp Cabarita Eco Resort when Ackee is in season. Salt fish meanwhile can be enjoyed year round and is often served combined with callaloo, and broad white beans.