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Jerk It Out


In honour of one of Toronto most vibrant festivals of the year, Scotiabank Caribana Festival, this week is dedicated to the flavours and spirit of  the part of the world I love best, the Caribbean.


I couldn’t do a week of Caribbean themed recipes without including the definitive Jerk seasoning recipe. Given this is a holistic health blog and not a “100 ways to BBQ animals” type deal, I am focusing on the spices themselves. It is up to you what you want to put this spice on.

But let’s talk traditional jerk first. Your best bet for authentic smoked out jerk pork, chicken or fish will certainly not be what is served at the all inclusive buffet. For the good stuff, you will most certainly be leaving the gates of any hotel compound to hit up a road side stop. Just follow the smoke signals and you will find it.

porkpit_3249Should the wind ever blow you in the direction of the Caribbean and you want to sample the real deal- this is how it should look.

On to the history of this collection of spices. According to, the origina of Jerk date back to the native Arawak Indians traditional method of using Jamaican pimento (also known as allspice) to season and smoke meat  for preservation purposes. Combine this tradition with a little spice in the form of hot chilies,  pirates (yes, pirates!) bringing in a variety of new spices from both the old and new worlds; toss in some salt and escaped slaves with mad skills in slow roasting.  Mix up this blend and we have ourselves Jerk.

Legend has it that the escaped slaves perfected this method of preserving and cooking meat during the time they spent fighting the British troops while living in the Blue Mountains.

And the things we learn with a little google research.

The basic recipe for jerk seasoning includes these three main components:

  • Scotch Bonnet Chile Pepper: ranges in color from green to yellow to red. It’s purpose o was not only to spice spice things up, but also to preserve foods when refrigeration was not easy to come by and to aid in digestion. Jalapeños will work too. As with all chiles, use rubber gloves when handling and cutting, avoid inhaling the fumes, and thoroughly wash your hands after handling.
  • Allspice: The allspice berry, also known as Jamaica or Myrtle pepper is a must in jerk seasoning. I am not talking about the ground combination spice powder that is often used in pumpkin pies and such, but the berry of the evergreen pimento. The dark brown, dried berries look similar to peppercorns, and can be purchased whole or ground.
  • Thyme: Also widely used in Jamaican foods, and is sold in dried bunches in the markets.  Thyme is a wonderful digestive aid.

Jerk it Out Jerk Seasoning

by Meghan Telpner

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: None

Keywords: mix condiment dairy-free gluten-free sugar-free vegetarian onion Jamaican Caribbean


Ingredients (2-3 cups)

  • 1 Tbs Ground allspice
  • 1 Tbs Dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper (I leave this out due to my allergy)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground sage
  • 3/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs organic sugar or 2 Tbs honey
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Orange juice, fresh or half of one orange, pureed
  • 1 Lime, juiced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (habanero)- leave this out if you are not so into the spicyness
  • 3 Green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Onion, finely chopped


Rub this goodness all over your preferred choice of meat, fish or veggie protein and you can enjoy this grilled, sauteed in a pan or baked.

Depending on your use, you may also wish to add a little water to make it more of a marinade.

How do I enjoy this?

I throw it all in a little pot with some cubed tempeh, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower and sautee/simmer until veggies are tender and serve with a side of Rice and Peas. Not quite the same as eating a piece of meat hot and smoked right off the grill while sitting on a rickety stool by a shack at the side of the road looking out over the ocean; but hey, if I squint my eyes and play the right music, the brick building that is my view could be whatever I want it to be.

Here’s a good song that does that trick.


Pork Pit Pictures courtesy of

13 Responses to “Jerk It Out”

  1. Meghan Telpner said…
    I know of a great way to get down to the Caribbean... join my retreat! ;)
  2. [...] we turn our attention to those other Caribbean inspired meals- the curries, roti, rice and peas, jerk pork and Red Stripe [...]

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