Jerking pork has been a long time custom in Jamaica since the middle of the 17th century.The method of pit-cooking meat originated by the African hunters who were enslaved by the British. Perhaps the West African hunters adapted the seasoning methods of the native Arawak Indians who lived on the island as in their use of chile peppers.During the middle of the eighteenth century therewas guerilla warfare between the escaped ex-slaves, known as Maroons and England.The record shows this method of preserving pork developed during this period.
Maroons escaped and lived in the mountains darted wild boars through the bush and provided a source of food. Some of the men kept watch on movements of the British Redcoats on the plains, others used their long spears pursuing the fast boars at dangerous inaccessible part of the mountains.
The caught and killed boars were taken down the mountain on long sticks to provide food for the weary rebels. Some meat was eaten at the time of the hunt, but most had to be preserved until the next opportunity to hunt presented itself.
The jerk seasoning combination, laced heavily with salt and peppers, was a means of food preservation. The pork was slathered with the aromatic spice combination and wrapped in leaves. Some buried the wrapped marinated pig in a hole in the ground filled with hot stones, and the pork would steam slowly in its own juices. Others would grill it slowly, up to 12 to 14 hours over a fire of green wood. This became jerk cooking
A peace treaty was signed by the Maroon and the British and jerking pork steeped into the Jamaican culture. These daysit is common practice to barbecue pork over pimento wood to give the meat that tangy flavor unique in the pimento tree. The maroons did not just use pimento but several woods and herbs they could find in their surroundings.From the maroons came this great secret way to prepare meat that ultimately became part of the Jamaican life-style about 20 years ago. Now this trend of jerk huts are everywhere –in every town, every village in every city in Jamaica.
Jerking is the latest food inspiration sweeping the island. It is no longer confined to pork but now includes all things like fish, chicken, and vegetables. Jerk chicken is very popular. On the weekend, Jerk Chicken is very popular in Kingston the capital of Jamaica. Steel drums are converted to grills. These grills line the streets on certain sections of Red Hills Road, that the amount of smoke produced, except for the aroma, you could easily think that San Francisco fog came to Jamaica. This is the description given to illustrate the bustling business that evolves from jerking all things you can imagine.
When you eat jerk you feel the influence from which it developed. It captures the features of the African, Indian, and calypso cultures that produced it. Jamaicans are great harmonizers—“we make delicious soups, we keep our friends forever, we are fantastic musicians and artists—and we have applied this same harmony to our jerk seasoning.”
All Jamaicans have their own variations on the jerk theme. You’ll hear again and again comments like “come and taste my jerk chicken it is better than the last time I saw you.”