Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Jerk Seasoning

Recipe by Steven Raichlen

This potent seasoning is the lifeblood of Jamaican jerk—a paste fragrant with allspice and rum and fiery with Scotch bonnet chiles. It will keep for several weeks in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. (Line the lid with plastic so the chile fumes won’t corrode it.)


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For the spice mix:

  • 3 tablespoons imported Jamaican pimento berries or whole allspice
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 1 whole nutmeg or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 6 dried pimento leaves or 2 bay leaves, crumbled

To finish the jerk paste:

  • 2 to 8 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed
  • 2 bunches of scallions, trimmed and rough chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (strip them off the branches) or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Step 1: Make the spice mix: Place the pimento berries, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pimento leaves (or bay leaves) in a spice mill and grind to a fine powder. You may need to work in several batches.

Step 2: Finish the jerk paste: Cut the Scotch bonnets in half. For milder jerk chicken, seed them; for more fiery jerk, leave the seeds in. (Wear rubber gloves.) Cut the scallions crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Rough chop the garlic and ginger. Place the chiles, scallions, garlic, ginger, thyme, and the ground spices in a food processor and finely chop. Add the soy sauce, vegetable oil, vinegar, rum, lime juice, and molasses and process to form a thick paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.