Caribbean Jerk Paste

Punchy scotch bonnet chillis tempered by sweet, aromatic spices go into this Jamaican marinade. This Gluten-free and Paleo recipe tingles with fruity heat.

Caribbean Jerk Paste

Jerk is a traditional Jamaican dish that involves marinading chicken or pork in a spice mix, before cooking over a charcoal fire and smoking with pimento wood from the allspice tree. Typical marinade ingredients include scotch bonnet chillies, allspice berries, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and spring onions. The result is a sweet and aromatic smokiness, tempering a warm punch of chilli. When cooking in colder climes, you can try to replicate the smoky flavour imparted by cooking over open flames by adding some black cardamom , which I suggest as an optional ingredient.

The paste can be stirred into stock to make a stew (Caribbean Jerk Pork Stew), rubbed directly over meat before cooking in the oven, or whisked into 1/2 cup of olive oil (120ml) to make a marinade (Caribbean Jerk Chicken).

makes cooking time
400ml (8 servings)
Caribbean Jerk Paste

fresh ingredients:

  • 4-6 scotch bonnet chillis (depending on how hot you like it!)
  • 2 thumb-sized pieces of root ginger (40g), peeled
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 12 spring onions, ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, leaves only (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)

dried ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 8 black cardamom pods, broken open by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife, seeds shaken out and husks discarded (optional – adds smokiness)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

liquid ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons (70g) runny honey
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) orange juice (about 2 small oranges)
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) white wine vinegar
  1. Grind the allspice berries. Put the allspice berries and black cardamom seeds (if using) into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor). Set aside.
  2. Purée the aromatics. Put the fresh ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor (scotch bonnet chilli, garlic, fresh ginger, spring onion and thyme). Blitz until smooth. If the paste needs loosening up, add a bit of the orange juice.
  3. Add the ground spices. Add the ground allspice and cardamom seeds to the food processor, and the remaining paste ingredients (cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, salt, pepper, honey and orange juice). Blitz until fully combined.
  4. Bottle the paste. Transfer the paste to a sterilised glass jar, using the back of a spoon to press the mixture down and eliminate air bubbles. Seal, and transfer to the refrigerator. For best results, eat within 1 month.

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