Benefits of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning and Easy Recipe
OWherever I am in the world, when I tell people where I’m from, they almost always respond with total appreciation for Jamaican jerk seasoning. It’s the carrying power of this Caribbean marinade and its distinctive, memorable taste. Originating in Jamaica, jerk, in the singular, refers to the way meat is seasoned, grilled and smoked. Chicken and pork are the most common meats in jerk dishes, however, seafood, vegetables, and even tofu can be jerked for plant-based folks like me.
Growing up, I remember my grandmother sharing stories about the history of jerk and being proud to be Afro-indigenous, as it was said that the origins of Jamaican jerk seasoning can be traced back to the indigenous Arawak Indians who flavored the pork with allspice before smoking it. this. As foreign settlers came to the island and its population and demographics grew, so did the list of jerk ingredients. At some point runaway slaves, better known as Maroons, introduced their practice of slow-roasting meat into hearths, which ushered in the cooking technique still commonly used today, known as name of “jerk pits”.
Jerk seasoning has been a culinary staple of Jamaica and its diasporas, located primarily in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States for centuries. It is equally prized for its robust aromas as it is for its impressive array of health benefits, derived from its unique blend of herbs and spices.
What is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning?
Historically, jerk seasoning is made from bird peppers, elderberry peppers, and allspice, while modern recipes include broader ingredients including garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger , green onions and thyme. “Jerk seasoning and its origins really pique my interest, from its history to its versatility, but so specific, it’s amazing,” says Boris Ginet, chef and owner of Risbo in Brooklyn, New York.
Traditionally, “jerk is neither soft nor subtle,” adds Ginet. “Scotch bonnet will hit your palette first. Allspice rounds out the heat with a bitter, yet fruity taste, while garlic, ginger, scallions and thyme surround notes that are warm with smoky, but also have sweet undertones that complement the overall taste.”
The Health Benefits of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
I still remember so well the smell of fresh ginger, garlic, onions, and allspice that blended so well when my grandmother made jerk chicken for family dinners. As a holistic practitioner, she always made sure I knew the health properties of everything we ate. Most spices and herbs are loaded with minerals and nutrients, and jerk seasoning ingredients are no exception, says Sydney Axelrod, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Axelrod Nutrition.
For example, Axelrod says allspice, a star ingredient in jerk seasoning, is rich in a variety of plant compounds like eugenol, which is praised for its powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as quercetin, a type of antioxidant known as a flavonoid which fights free radicals, and finally gallic acid, another powerful antioxidant.
Each ingredient in Jamaican jerk seasoning offers a different health benefit, Axelrod continues. “Garlic has been shown to boost immunity and act as an anti-inflammatory,” she says. “Cinnamon and its antioxidant compound, cinnamaldehyde, may reduce inflammation; thyme contains a variety of minerals and vitamins that promote good health, including vitamin C for immune support, potassium for healthy cells and manganese for bone development; and clove, also rich in manganese, reduces inflammation and aids digestion.”
So when you’re craving island cuisine and want to whip up an easy jerk dish for yourself or your family, know that you’re reaping health benefits with every bite. I’ll start with this marinade recipe below, which you can apply to anything from chicken to vegetable proteins like tofu or seitan.
Jamaican jerk marinade recipe
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 spring onions
8 chilli seeds (allspice)
1-2 Scotch Bonnet peppers (depending on how much spice you prefer)
1 green onion
1/2 large white onion
8 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Increase the heat level to taste with more peppers. Store in an airtight glass jar for up to two weeks.
Want to extend your marinade? Freeze it and store it for up to six months.
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