At last, I’ve come to embrace the challenge, to make my own homemade jerk seasoning and let the results speak for themselves. As anyone familiar with my site here knows, at times I like to talk about food. I’m pretty DIY when it comes to good recipes, and enjoy making certain foods that promote comfort, are healthy, and go well with beer. And as I’ve come to compile a pretty a long list of spice-compatible beers over the years, I thought it was about time I tried to make my favorite spicy sauce!
For anyone who’s tried making the sauce, jerk seasoning/sauce/spice presents a bit of a challenge. It consists of several ingredients, the exact combination of which are subject to interpretation since it, like the region which spawned it (the Caribbean) is a very diverse place. Nevertheless, the basic premise remains pretty consistent from place to place and household to household. What all agree upon is the fact that anything bearing the name “jerk” is hot, peppery, and multilayered.
The basic rub/spice comes down to scotch bonnet peppers (aka. habanero) and peppercorns, and the calls for the addition of spices which revolves around the holy trinity of allspice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves). You’ve also got your share of onions, garlic, and ginger which, in the case of a rub, would be powdered but need to be fresh if you’re making a sauce or marinade. This not only adds more layers of flavor, but a degree of consistency to it all. The final ingredients which finish the transformation of the spice into a sauce are rum (another Caribbean product of extreme and historical importance) and vinegar.
In my case, I used pale ale and balsamic vinegar, since rum and malt were not available. This did not heavily alter the taste from what I was anticipating, but for purists, I’m thinking only rum and malt vinegar will do here. And of course, only true habaneros should suffice for spice. No chillies, no jalapenos, no substitutes of any kind. Half of making jerk seasoning is measuring out the heat, and with habanero/scotch bonnets, a little goes a LONG way!
The following list was used by me, and the proportions were not exact, hence why I don’t list specific quantities. Best to just experiment until you get the color, consistency, and taste you want. So using the following template, combine the following ingredients in a bowl and grind well.
habanero/scotch bonnet peppers (any more than two and your an adventurous SOB!)
Once finely ground, the resulting sauce should be a deep brown color, speckled from the ground pepper, and should smell strong and acidic. The taste should be spicy (obviously), and boast a fair degree of pepper, onion, garlic and be just slightly sweet, and the allspice should also be noticeable. If not, try tweaking the ingredients. Whatever is overpowering it, balance it out with more of the rest.
When finished, use as a rub, marinade, or cooking sauce, slather conservatively on your food, and let it bring out the taste! Remember, moderation is key here. Proper jerk is HOT, so not much should be needed to really made your food sing!
And of course, beer pairing is essential when dealing with this food. And in this case, keeping things geographically and culturally appropriate, I would recommend either a nice, clean lager or a smooth stout, preferably a St. Amboise Oatmeal, a Hoyne’s Voltage Espresso Stout, or a Brooklyn’s Black or Rogue Chocolate Stout. Nothing too overpowering, as you want smoothness to go with your spice.
This weekend, I will be making a third go at producing this sauce and using it as a marinade for a large roast. Paired with a dark beer and some roasted veggies, I know that dinner will be most enjoyable! I recommend you try this recipe out for yourselves since its an inexpensive way to turn your food into a real experience. Until next time, good luck and good eating!