Where does the “jerk” come from?

For lovers of spicy food there is nothing like the taste of Jamaican jerk to whet the appetite and get the taste buds going. Jerk is as synonymous with Jamaica as reggae music.

The jerk method is said to have originated in Africa. The sauce is a special marinade made from local spices such as cinnamon, pimento, cloves, scallions, garlic, thyme, salt, nutmeg, and hot peppers known as “Scotch Bonnet” or “country” peppers in Jamaica. The sauce is then rubbed over the meat which is left to marinade in the sauce. The food can be cooked over a grill, barbecue, or in the oven.

Jerk is the most popular dish in Jamaica and just about anything can be jerked. Meats that are jerked include chicken, pork, beef, sausages, fish, lobster, squid, shrimp, conch, rabbit, and mutton while staples that have been jerked include breadfruit.

Jerk food can be eaten by itself or with rice, dumplings, or festival or by itself with a fork or with the hands.

The most famous place for jerked dishes in Jamaica is Boston in Portland. There are several other famous eating spots all over the island. Jerk food has gained popularity outside of the Jamaica and there are jerk festivals in various parts of the world.

Two jerk food festivals are held in Portland at Port Antonio and Boston annually while a jerk food festival is also staged in New York.