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Jerk

Colorado
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for Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Crested Butte, Gunnison
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Jerk

Given the recent discussion about Caymanian jerk chicken/pork I figured it was worth clarifying the traditional process involved in making and serving jerk. For those that are unaware, jerking is essentially a week-long process. Traditionally the sauce, consisting of scotch bonnet peppers, lime, vinegar and other ingredients, is made on a Monday to permit the sauce time to ferment. Chicken or Pork is then added to the sauce on Wed. and stored in sealed 5-gallon buckets until Friday when it is cooked/smoked (over wood coals). For decades, jerk has been a Friday night tradition for many families who would walk or drive to their favourite jerk stand to enjoy their weekly treat.

While you might be able to find places that serve jerk every day of the week, rest assured it is not prepared in a traditional way. Certainly personal preferences differ, but those first few places to start serving jerk 5-7 days per week in a shop or stand, intended on cashing in on the growing popularity of jerk among tourists. While places like Seymour's in GT, Chester's and Rankin's are certainly a closer approximation of real jerk compared to the jerk chicken sandwiches served at hotels and "tourist traps", they are by no means authentic. I personally used to drive from West Bay to the northern end of Queens Highway on Friday's to get my jerk fix from Tony. People would line up early and the last piece of meat was usually sold before the first piece ever even came off the grill. Almost all of these Friday night stands vanished by the late 90's and so now it's just the established locations serving jerk on most days of the week, including Fridays.

If you consider yourself a jerk aficionado, about the only time you will find authentic jerk anymore is during Pirates Week when the traditional jerkers (i.e. those who don't cater to tourists) set up stands in GT and cook literally thousands of pounds of jerked meat to the revelers. If your goal is to sample traditionally prepared jerk, this is about the only place you're going to find it. That, and in my back yard. :-)

Annapolis, Maryland
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for Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
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1. Re: Jerk

smushie, than you. I learn new things from you!

Kansas City...
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2. Re: Jerk

We are going to go to Heritage Kitchen next week just to try some and other food there.I had jerk chicken in Turks last year and I thought it was great....

Syracuse, New York
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for Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Syracuse
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3. Re: Jerk

smushie, that is a fantastic piece or writing - I was totally ignorant of the traditional way of making this - they way you describe it sounds far more appealing than the samples I have had thus far (I don't usually go looking for it for that reason).

So many seem to think that just coating the meat with jerk seasoning makes it jerk. Now I know better at least.

A question - is the fermentation of the sauce and the marinading of the meat done at room temperature, or in a cool place (can't imagine it'd be a fridge) - what do you find works best?

Colorado
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for Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Crested Butte, Gunnison
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4. Re: Jerk

Most people refer to the sauce as settling or mellowing for a day or two but it's refrigerated once the meat is added. What you're eating if you go to Chicken Chicken, or order a jerk chicken sammich somewhere is a piece of chicken with some jerk seasoning smeared on it before it's thrown on the grill. That's simply not jerk. At best, it's a piece of chicken with some jerk seasoning on it. If that's your thing, I'd suggest trying the jerk burger at Morgan's Harbour. However, if you're after authentic jerk, you're not going to find it at any of these places and particularly on a sandwich.

I actually tenderize my chicken before I even put it in the marinade, pounding out the meat and paying close attention to cleanly break up the bones. This makes it easier to cut up into pieces on the cutting board once it's been grilled and the flavour from the marrow oozes out during the cooking to keep the meat moist no matter how good of a char you have on the outside. I also remove the skin to ensure that the marinade soaks through the meat. Delicious as it is, I've found that the skin acts as a bit of a barrier and makes the meat less "jerky". I've had everyone from the former premier, other government ministers, family and friends describe my jerk as hands-down, the best jerk in Cayman. I usually make batches of around 40-50lbs at a pop at least once or twice each summer while I'm down. Oh, and there's a bit of food (and shelf) rearranging in the fridge to store that marinading bucket of chicken for the 48 hours before cooking it.

Syracuse, New York
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for Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Syracuse
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5. Re: Jerk

OK, now I'm hungry!

Thanks - that's very cool.

Houston, Texas
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6. Re: Jerk

Wow, who knew Smushie was a jerk pro? All in favor of Smushie opening a restaurant, say "aye"! ;)

Sounds delicious and like you are quite the chef!

Kansas City...
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7. Re: Jerk

Lol when I had jerk chicken in Turks last year it was at a place called "Hole in the Wall" and it tasted like real jerk to me! I think with the name of the place I may be right!

Grand Cayman
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for Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach
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8. Re: Jerk

Thanks Smushie! That explains why I love the Pirates Week vendors so much and not really the jerk you order in a restaurant which just seems to be "hot" for the sake of being hot. I also enjoy the Jerk Festival each April. Have you been here while that's taken place? Just wondering your thoughts on the prep methods. Sounds like you should enter the competition next year!

Colorado
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for Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Crested Butte, Gunnison
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9. Re: Jerk

April is one month when I can never get down but I'm sure there's some good Jerk at a Jerk Festival!

I just gave the basic overview of how I jerk but obviously it's all about the details. I even have a method for moving and turning the meat on the heat. My friends call it "the rotation," as in, "leave it alone! You're gonna spoil the rotation!"

10. Re: Jerk

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