Jerk Seasoning

My first experience with jerk seasoning left me with plenty of room for improvement.  It happened when I was visiting my Aunt Signe in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  One of her best friends bought a whole beef brisket and a bottle of wet jerk seasoning.  “Cook this,” I was commanded, as everyone knew I loved to cook and usually did it pretty well.  This was before I went to culinary school when cooking was still just an incredible hobby for me.  I said, “Sure,” not quite sure at all.

It was a beautiful Florida night, clear except for the city-lit cumulous clouds hanging lazily overhead. As it happened, that evening there was a space shuttle launch from Cape Canaveral.  We could see the trajectory clearly in the South Florida sky as the shuttle rocketed into outer space.  The evening’s festivities soon became a Cocktail Launch Party, as we enjoyed Cuba Libras with fresh limes plucked from the neighbor’s tree.

Looking back it is easy to see that I made two or more mistakes with that first attempt.  First, I didn’t really know beef brisket.  I knew it was fatty and figured it was probably tough.  So I decided to go with the short-term high-heat cooking method, rather than the long, slow, gentle cooking method which would have tenderized the meat.  (I should have opted for the second.)  I trimmed a lot of the fat from the outside (which I should have left on) and seared it on a hot grill (which would have been unnecessary if I had opted to cook it low and slow).  Then I slathered it with the sauce and kept cooking it.  The heat may have been kept a little high.  I kind of forgot about the meat with all the excitement of the Launch and all.  Well it wasn’t burned, not really too badly, anyway.  The jerk marinade had crisped quite a bit and we kept the lights low as we ate dinner by the pool.  Slathered with more sauce, it wasn’t half bad, if I had only cut it against the grain.

Here is my recipe for Wet Jerk Seasoning:

Wet Jerk Seasoning

Here is the recipe I use in my kids and adult cooking classes for everything from Fish Tacos to Jerk Chicken.  For Vegetarian Cooking Classes I have Jerked Eggplant and Portabella Mushrooms.  Allspice is the key spice along with the heat from peppers that give Jerk Seasoning its signature characteristics.  I like the following recipe as it gives plenty of flavor but isn’t painfully hot.  It also keeps a long time in the fridge (and makes a nice holiday gift from your kitchen).  I mix this with orange juice, limeade or lemonade for a great marinade.

1-2 jalapeno, serrano or habanera peppers, seeded and chopped

1 bunch scallions, trimmed of roots and chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon grated ginger

Zest of one orange

Juice of one orange

Zest of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

4 tablespoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ cup oil

Method:  Puree everything in a food processor or blender.  Use right away or chill.

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