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Jamaica: A Brief History of Jerk Pork PDF Print E-mail
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Jamaica: A Brief History of Jerk Pork
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Edited by Dave DeWitt

Boar Hunt, Jamaica, c. 1870Editor's Note: In Jamaica, a “barbecue” was also a flat surface, usually made of stone or paved, where coffee beans, ginger root, and pimento berries were air-dried.

[The flesh of Jamaican pigs was] “far better tasted, more nourishing, and much easier to be digested, than those of Europe; which is the reason why it is so much eaten in this, and indeed all the other islands throughout the West Indies.” --Richard Blome, A Description of the Island of Jamaica, London: J. Williams, Jr., 1672.

[Wild hogs were] “cut open, the bones taken out, and the flesh is gash'd on the inside into the skin, fill'd with salt and expos'd to the sun, which is call'd jirking... [This meat was] brought home to their masters by the hunters, and eats much as bacon, if broil'd on coals.” --Hans Sloane, A voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica: with the natural history of the last of those islands. London: BM, 1707.


“The fame of our Jamaican barbecue and brawn is so well established, that it would serve no purpose to reiterate their praises, except to tantalize the reader. The tame sorts are a very profitable stock to the settler or planter, as they multiply fast, and are kept or fattened with very little trouble. One boar is generally allowed to ten sows.” --Edward Long, The History of Jamaica. London: T. Lowndes, 1774.

[The use of the term “jerk” for pork barbecue appeared as early as 1778.] “The hunters shoot the beeves for their hides, as they do in Cuba; and, with regard to the pork, they strip the flesh from the hones, and jerk it as they do in Jamaica.” --The North-American and the West-Indian Gazetteer, London: G. Robinson, 1778.

[According to William Beckford, author of the gothic novel, Vathek] “Those wild boars that I have seen brought in by the negroes, or the parts of which I have occasionally received as presents, do not in, colour or in size, resemble those in Europe: they rather appear to be the progeny of swine that have strayed into the woods; and which, from having been once tame, partake of the habits of, and now become, wild, but are not, rigidly speaking, of the same species. I have seen them in a young state; but I did not perceive that they were marked by those stripes and colours which are observable in the wild pigs of other countries: and if there be really wild hogs in Jamaica, and such as are found in Germany and in other European countries, I can only say that I have not ever seen them.... The negroes smoak and dry this animal, from when the pieces thus smoaked, obtain the appellation of jirked hog; and it is, when thus cured, a very savoury and a pleasing relish.”--William Beckford, A Descriptive Account of the Island of Jamaica. London: T. an J. Egerton, 1790.

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