The History of Jerk Marinade/Seasoning

The technique of smoking meat over a slow burning fire is thought to have been brought to Jamaica by the Arawak Indians who came from South America over 2500 years ago. The story goes that when Jamaica was invaded by Europeans, some of the slaves they brought with them escaped into the rugged interior of Jamaica. These slaves became known as Maroons.

The Maroons lived amongst the descendants of the Arawaks, who in turn taught them their way of cooking spiced boar meat slowly underground. It was the Maroons who perfected what is known as jerk cooking today. By using the preserving method of spicing the meat and wrapping it in leaves, which is called charqui. Then combining the barbacoa method of burying the meat underground with hot coals and covering it with wood. The spices they used which are still essential in any dry or wet jerk seasoning, are pimiento (all spice), salt, black pepper and scotch bonnet peppers (habaneros).

This cooking technique suited the Maroons well; always at risk of being recaptured by their slave masters, it was perfect for hiding smoke and thus evidence of their location. Maroon communities are very much alive and well today and are revered in Jamaica and right throughout the Carribean and Americas as a symbol of resistance against oppression. Jerk cuisine has followed the Jamaican diaspora all over the world.

Today, this uniquely aromatic and spicy food has become immensely popular on the streets and in many restaurants in cities anywhere a significant population of Jamaican descent exists, such as New York, London and Toronto.