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The History of Real Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

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When one thinks of Jamaica a few things come to mind: white sandy beaches, Reggae music, and Jamaican Jerk. Jerk cooking is 100% Jamaican right down to its very core. Fragrant, savory, sweet and tenaciously hot, jerk is truly a part of Jamaica’s history and can be traced back hundreds of years (at least since the middle of the seventeenth century) to the Maroons.

Traditional Jamaican Jerk is a method of cooking pork. Nowadays chicken, seafood or beef can be seasoned in this manner as well. Jerk is a complex blend of seasonings including scallions, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, thyme, allspice, black pepper and many other spices. All of its ingredients grow on the island’s fertile green landscape.

During the time of slavery, the British brought slaves to Jamaica in order to guarantee a steady supply of sugar, coffee, cocoa, pimento, and other goods to merchants. A group of these slaves escaped into the mountains and were later named the Maroons. The Maroons would blend an array of spices and herbs that they would later use to marinate and cook the wild game they hunted. This led to the invention of the now famous “Jamaican Jerk”. American writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston once recounted an overnight boar hunt with the Maroons in 1939: “Towards morning we ate our fill of jerk pork. It is better than our American barbecue. It is hard to imagine anything better than pork the way the Maroons jerk it.”


Ask a Jamaican what the word “jerk” means they they’ll tell you it refers to the motion in either turning the meat over burning coal or in chopping off the hunks of meat for customers. The explanation refers to the English form of a Spanish word of Indian origin that described a method of preparing pork. That method was then modified and then preserved by the Maroons.

The legendary mecca for Jerk is Boston Beach on the northeastern end of Jamaica. The smell of alluring fragrances of grilled pork, chicken, fish and beef that Hurston wrote about infuse the air. Here most of the vendors have built huts over fires directly on the beach like the Maroons that came before them. The meat is cooked on pimento wood or sheets of metal used as griddles and sometimes covered with plantain leaves.

If you would like to experience the taste of Jamaican Jerk, why not try the original “Jamaican Country Style” brand jerk seasoning, which is available in spicy or mild. It is imported directly from Jamaica by Kingston-Miami Trading Company, which is a 100% owned and operated Jamaican company with over 28 years of experience in the food technology business.

Jamaican Jerk is considered a national treasure. Many have attempted to imitate its unique flavor, but none can come even close to replicating it. Much like Reggae music, it is not only something that is distinctly Jamaican, but also an expression of harmony, pride and rich cultural history.

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