Camp Cabarita

From the blog

The Best Jamaican Jerk Article

The Best Article Jamaican Jerk Article


Jamaica is a popular destination for eco tourism. The island’s vast, unadulterated natural beauty, and perfect climate have helped make Jamaica one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Most eco travelers wouldn’t consider their holiday complete without learning about Jamaican culture tasting its renowned traditional. Ackee and Saltfish might be the Jamaican National dish, but Jamaican Jerk  is a worldwide and iconic symbol of Jamaican culture. Camp Cabarita has officially declared Jerk Chicken Jamaica’s signature dish.


If you are reading this post you’re interested in Jamaican food, travel or culture.   As  one of Jamaica’s best eco resorts, Camp Cabarita Eco Lodge prides itself on our preparation of traditional “farm to fork” food which includes Jamaican Jerk Chicken served with our secret Camp Sauce. In this article we will cover everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Jerk including:


  • What is Jamaican Jerk?
  • Ingredients in Jerk Seasoning
  • How is Jerk  Seasoning Prepared?
  • How Jamaican Jerk is Made
  • What makes Jamaican Jerk Special?
  • A Fast and Easy Way to try Jerk Seasoning

What is Jerk?

Jerk refers to  a preparation,  seasoning  and method of cooking  originates in Jamaica.  Chicken and pork are the most common meats in Jerk dishes, but beef, goat, lamb and even seafood can be “Jerked”.  Jerked has spicy, smoky & complex taste.  The best Jerk has a balanced, nuanced taste but  the dominant flavors are Scotch Bonnet Pepper (Habanero) and Allspice (col.  Pimento) .

Ingredients of Jerk Seasoning
While Scotch Bonnet Peppers  give Jerk it’s spicy heat.  Allspice adds an exotic unfamiliar flavor to many people, described as as a mixture of clove and nutmeg.   While Jerk’s primary flavors  are spicy heat Scotch Bonnet Peppers and the fragrant tones Jamaican pimento there are other key ingredients that give Jerk it’s signature layered flavor. Jerk Seasoning also includes:

  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Jamaican Wild Ginger
  • Scallions (col. escallion)
  • Tumeric (col. Tambric)
  • Curry (roasted Tumeric)
  • Tamarind
Jamaican Jerk over a combination of green and charcoal hardwood chips
Jamaican Jerk Grilled with a combination of green wood and charcoal

How is Jerk  Seasoning Prepared?
There are several methods on infusing Jerk Seasoning Flavors into meat.  Traditionally fresh ingredients and ground or masticated into a Jerk Paste or Jerk Sauce and applied prior and during  cooking over an open flame. When ingredients in Jerk Seasoning are dried and powdered they can be applied as Jerk Spice Dry Rub, used to dust meats prior to cooking, creating a delicious and savory spice crust.  Some combination vinegar, molasses, honey and even Red Stripe can be used to Jerk Marinade meats.  Because of the powerful, pungent ingredients, meat does not need to marinade long for the flavors to penetrate chicken, pork or beef.

How Jamaican Jerk is Made
If you have access to the fresh ingredients on the list above, food process in ratios to desired  taste and consistency. Grill Jerk chicken over hardwood coals fresh wood chips from an aromatic (traditionally young Pimento  branches and  berries. Serve with boiled yellow Yam and steamed Callaloo.

Where did the word ”Jerk” come from?
Many people, even Jamaicans believe that “Jerk” refers to partially yanking meat off the bone, or poking it, to allow the seasoning to more thoroughly coat the meat prior to cooking.  However according to an article posted in the Jamaica Gleaner,  the word Jerk has it origins in the Spanish word “charqui” itself is of Peruvian descent. Charqui referred to a method of slow smoking and in effect curing meat over an open flame and evolved into the English word Jerky.

Cultural Origins of Traditional Jerk Style Cooking
The Taino and Arawak people migrated to the Caribbean from Mesoamerica (modern day Mexico, Central America and Northern South America)  and brought with them the method of “Jerk” cooking long before the word “Jerk” was coined.   Tainos that escaped slavery during Spain’s rule, were later joined in Jamaican hillsides by escaped African Ashanti slaves who later became known in Jamaica as Maroons.

These  Ashantee (or English named Cormantee) became known as the Maroons in Jamaica. Some Ashanti warrior hunters were well  equipped to survive in the Jamaican wilds. The lush tropical forests of Inner Jamaica was an accommodating environment to the Ashanti’s  tradition of hunting and  cooking wild boar in earthen stone lined pit .

Both the Taino and  cultures used a combination of hard wood charcoal (col. Fire coal) and green wood to slow roast and smoke wild game.  In Jamaica a variety of  aromatic woods (especially  Pimento wood) or water soaked “fire coal” are used to add fruity and nutty smoke flavors to jerked chicken and pork.  Meat was traditionally wrapped in giant banana leaves maintain moisture and keep the dish free of ashes from the wood fire the burned above.


Road Side Jamaican Jerk Stand
Road Side Jamaican Jerk Stand

What makes Jamaican Jerk Special
What clear is that the process of slow roasting meat in  a combination of wood fire, hardwood earthen pits is  not unique to Jamaica. The process of what is now called “Jerking”  existed on the island for thousands of years before is was named as such.  The diverse combination of local, often wild ingredients or cultivated heirloom varieties of roots spices and herbs give Jerk it’s amazing flavor.  Culinary traditions are a fascinating way to learn the history region and Jerk is certainly no exception.

Where to Get Jerk Chicken
Jamaica of course!  On the island earthen fire pits have mostly replaced by roadside steel drum smoker grills, often custom tailored to proprietors exacting specifications known locally as Jerk pans.  In Jamaica, Jerk men expertly slow roast, grill and smoke what are often hand raised local chickens. You’ll have an opportunity to add a spicy vinegar sauce, prior to enjoying some of the best grilled chicken of your live.

An Easy Way to Try Jerk Season to try Home
Consider trying Jamaican Jerk Aioli as a great alternative to homemade Sriracha mayonnaise:
Use stick or hand blender to emulsify:
– 1 egg
-8 ounces Grapeseed or Vegetable Oil
-½ Lemon
-Sea Salt & Peppercorns
– 2 – 4 Tsp Walkerswood or Eaton’s Jerk Paste

Apply this versatile dipping sauce liberally as a condiment to cooked meats


Taste the Real Jamaica at an Eco Resort

The Jamaican Jerk is available today is remarkably similar to what Maroon’s and Tainos prepared history .  Most modern day Jamaican Spice Recipes include ingredients were available on the island at the time. This authentic  uniquely Jamaican dish is a easy way experience both Jamaica’s past and present .  Today Jerk can be enjoyed grilled, flame broiled, seared or prepared traditionally in wood fire soil hole.  Camp Cabarita Eco Lodge is known for it expert preparation of traditional Jamaican dishes.  Camp Cabarita Eco Resort’s Jerk chicken has a  crisp spice seared skin, with moist and tender dark and white meat .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Book Your Trip Today