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.