Jamaica is Richard Gwin's second home.
Gwin, 55, has been vacationing in the Caribbean nation since the mid 1970s, racking up about 20 trips there.
Gwin, a staff photographer at the Lawrence Journal-World, typically spends two to three weeks each year in Jamaica and stays with longtime friends.
Through the decades, that country's distinctive, jerk-style cooking has stolen his heart.
The island is covered with roadside jerk-chicken stands, where Jamaicans and tourists alike line up to buy spicy barbecued chicken that has been rubbed or marinated in a fiery mix of Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice (known in Jamaica as pimento), vinegar, scallions, garlic and a blend of other spices.
This scene is especially true in Negril, a city on the western side of Jamaica, where Gwin has stayed in beach cabins owned by the family of Doris Williams for more than 25 years.
"You can see these little stands all over the island -- roadside stands where people have 55-gallon drums that they've cut in half and made barbecue pits out of, more or less," Gwin says.
Most of the jerk-style food sold in the colorfully named stands ("Original Step Aside Bling Bling Chicken Man," for example) is chicken, though some of them also sell jerked pork.
"There's a gentleman named Honest John that is across from where I stay. He gets up at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and starts his preparation for his jerk cooking. He wheels a little 55-gallon drum out on the street, as do a lot of panhandlers or cooks along Norman Manley Boulevard in Negril," Gwin says.
"It's the main road that comes through town, so all the tourists have to pass on this, and all the tourists come out of their hotels onto this road to get anywhere. So this is like roadside cooking, everywhere. They inundate the boulevard at night. And there's this blue haze of smoke, and you smell this wonderful barbecue. And it automatically makes you hungry."
Developed by native Indians, slaves
The word "jerk" refers to a special seasoning blend, a method of cooking and to the meat that has been rubbed with or marinated in jerk seasoning and then slow cooked or barbecued.
Jerk cooking can be traced back to the Arawak Indians -- Jamaica's original inhabitants -- who used spices and peppers to preserve their meat, as well as to highly flavor it for cooking over an open fire.
Escaped slaves, called Maroons, are believed to have perfected this cooking method over hundreds of years of British rule of the island.
Three ingredients common to the wide variety of jerk seasoning mixes are allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers and thyme.
The allspice berry, also known as "Jamaica pepper," grows on the island and has a rich, spicy flavor.
Scotch bonnet peppers are small, orange and among the hottest of all peppers.
Other ingredients that are often added to jerk seasoning or marinade include: garlic, scallions, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper.
Some cooks rub dry seasonings into the meat, while others soak it in a wet marinade. Then it's slowly barbecued over a fire. Many cooks like to use pimento wood to fuel their barbecue pits.
"A quarter of a chicken will cost you $3.50 or $4 (from a roadside stand). Most of the time it's just the chicken, but sometimes you'll get a slice of hard-dough bread, a staple in Jamaica," Gwin says.
"Jerk chicken is a specialty for a lot of people. Sunday is a big thing for jerk cooking; families are doing it all the time. It's totally around the island."
How does he know which of the stands offers the best jerk cooking?
"Where all the cars are," Gwin says.
|Longtime Lawrence Journal-World staff photographer Richard Gwin has had success using jerk seasonings, marinades and other products made by Jamaica-based Walkerswood Caribbean Foods.For more information about Walkerswood, go online to www.walkerswood.com.|
Jamaica's ever-present roadside stands don't just sell jerk chicken.
Some cooks sell dishes such as lobster pizza, curry goat (a Jamaican favorite) and oxtails. Others specialize in jerked pork or fresh, roasted fish.
But Gwin can mostly be found at Honest John's, the food stand near his lodgings in Negril.
"I walk over to him about 8 o'clock at night, because I can sit in a chair and I can watch everything pass in front of me on the road, whether it's the taxi cab drivers coming in to talk to Honest John, whether it's the (college) kids from Pennsylvania that are walking down with the munchies, wanting something," Gwin says.
"It's a slice of life going on. And I don't vary from this place very often, because it's just wonderful jerk cooking. And if the old lady I stay with (Doris Williams) likes it and won't go anywhere else, you know that's where mama's cooking is."
(Grilled Spicy Marinated Chicken)
2 cups finely chopped scallion
2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves), plus, if desired, Scotch bonnet chilies for garnish
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 teaspoons ground allspice
3 teaspoons English-style dry mustard
2 bay leaves, center ribs discarded and leaves crumbled
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 pounds chicken parts, wing tips discarded
vegetable oil for brushing grill
Make the marinade:
In a food processor or blender, puree scallion, 2 chilies, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, mustard, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar, thyme and cinnamon.
Divide the chicken parts between 2 heavy-duty plastic bags and spoon marinade over them, coating well. Seal bags, pressing out excess air, and let chicken marinate, chilled, turning bags over several times, for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.
On oiled rack set 4 to 6 inches over glowing coals, grill chicken, in batches if necessary, and cover if possible, for 10 to 15 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Transfer chicken as is cooked with tongs to a heated platter; keep warm, covered loosely with foil, and garnish platter with additional chilies.
Serves 10 as part of buffet.
Source: Gourmet, February 1993; obtained from www.epicurious.com.
Jerk Pork Tenderloin
1 tablespoon espresso coffee beans
1 1/4 teaspoons whole allspice
3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon chopped, seeded habanero chile
2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloins
Stir first 5 ingredients in small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Finely grind spice mixture in spice grinder; transfer to food processor. Add all remaining ingredients except pork; blend until wet paste forms. Place pork in large glass baking dish and coat with paste. Cover; chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Transfer pork coated with paste mixture to rimmed baking sheet. Roast pork until thermometer inserted into center registers 150 degrees, about 35 minutes. Slice pork and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: Bon Apetit, July 2003; obtained from www.epicurious.com.
Jamaican "Jerk" Chicken Wings
(Spicy Baked Chicken Wings)
1 onion, chopped
2/3 cup finely chopped scallion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeno pepper, or to taste (wear rubber gloves)
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 drops of Tabasco, or to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
18 chicken wings (about 3 1/4 pounds), wing tips cut off and reserved for another use
Make the marinade:
In a food processor or blender, puree onion, scallion, garlic, thyme, salt, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, jalapeno, black pepper, Tabasco, soy sauce and oil.
In large shallow dish, arrange wings in one layer and spoon marinade over them, rubbing it in (wear rubber gloves). Let wings marinate, covered and chilled, turning them once, for at least 1 hour, or, preferably, overnight.
Arrange wings in one layer on oiled rack set over a foil-lined roasting pan, spoon marinade over wings and bake in upper third of a preheated 450 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Gourmet, June 1991; obtained from www.epicurious.com.
Jamaican Jerk Potato Salad
3 pounds red-skinned potatoes, peeled
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved
6 chopped cornichons
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
Fresh chopped parsley
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain and cool. Cut potatoes into 3/4-inch pieces. Transfer to large bowl.
Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, stirring occasionally. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels and drain. Mix mayonnaise, mustard, chopped thyme, allspice, turmeric and cayenne pepper in medium bowl.
Separate egg yolks and whites. Mash yolks in small bowl. Mince egg whites. Add bacon, mayonnaise mixture, yolks, whites, cornichons, celery, onion and hot pepper sauce to potatoes in bowl and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Bon Apetit, April 1994; obtained from www.epicurious.com.
Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Orange-Chipotle Mayonnaise
1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chilies*
1 bunch green onions, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 small habanero chili or 2 medium jalapeno chilies, seeded, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 pounds ground beef (15 percent fat)
6 sesame-seed hamburger buns, toasted
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 tomatoes, sliced
6 romaine lettuce leaves
For orange-chipotle mayonnaise:
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For jerk sauce:
Finely chop first 4 ingredients in processor. Add sugar and next 3 ingredients; process until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Set aside 3/4 cup jerk sauce. Shape ground beef into six 1/2-to-3/4-inch-thick patties; place in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour 1/2 cup jerk sauce over patties and turn to coat; let stand 20 minutes.
Sprinkle patties with salt and pepper. Grill to desired doneness, brushing occasionally with remaining jerk sauce, about 4 minutes per side for medium.
Spread mayonnaise over cut surfaces of buns. Place burgers on bottom halves of buns. Top with onion slices, tomato slices, lettuce and bun tops. Serve, passing reserved 3/4 cup jerk sauce separately.
- Chipotle chilies canned in a spicy tomato sauce, sometimes called adobo, are available in Latin American markets, specialty food stores and some supermarkets.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: Bon Apetit, September 2002; obtained from www.epicurious.com.
Jerked Shrimp with Melon Salsa
6 large uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons jerk or Caribbean-style seasoning blend
3/4 cup diced cantaloupe
3/4 cup diced honeydew melon
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
4 lime wedges
Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Toss shrimp, oil, 2 teaspoons lime juice and jerk seasoning blend in medium bowl. Let marinate 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss cantaloupe, honeydew, cilantro, red onion and remaining 2 teaspoons lime juice in medium bowl. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper.
Thread shrimp onto metal skewers. Grill until opaque in center, occasionally brushing with marinade, about 5 minutes. Serve with salsa and lime wedges.
Makes 2 servings; can be doubled.
Source: Bon Apetit, July 2002; obtained from www.epicurious.com.