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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Scotchies, St. Ann (Delicious Jerk Food)

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica in which meats are dry-rubbed or marinated with a very hot spice mixture called Jamaican Jerk Spice. Jerk seasoning is traditionally applied to pork and goat. Modern recipes also apply Jerk spice mixes to chicken, fish, beef, sausage, and tofu. Jerk seasoning principally relies upon two items: allspice (called "pimento" in Jamaica) and Scotch Bonnet Peppers (among the hottest peppers on the Scoville scale). Other ingredients includes cloves, cinammon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic. Jerk chicken, pork, or fish is said to be at its best when barbecued over aromatic wood charcoal or briquettes. The wood ("pimento wood"), berries, and leaves of the allspice plant among the coals contribute to jerk's distinctive flavor.

O.K., all this talk about “Scotchies” I had to check it out for myself along with some friends and boy was it worth the check out. Scotchies is a well-established traditional jerk centre set back off the main road between Ocho Rios and St. Ann’s Bay (south side, i.e. on your left when going away from Ochi). The location was a little hidden but once we drove into the parking lot the smell of Jerk seasoning immediately hit us and the sight of the thatch roofs and picnic tables under zinc roofed sheds put us in a relaxing and cozy atmosphere to partake of a good meal.

We first headed up to the ordering area and lined up with locals and tourists to order our authentic Jamaican "Jerk". We ordered, paid the cashier and were given a receipt. At the next counter we handed in the receipt and we watched as our order was filled. I was amazed at how they cooked the meat; it was my first time seeing this method of cooking. On top of an open fire pit they have large metal sheets. On the metal sheets they have big slabs of pork, and those are covered by another large metal sheet. It's slow cooked this way for the most amazing, deep and spicy jerk flavor!

All items were neatly wrapped in foil for safe transport or to take to eat at the wooden tables grouped in open-sided shelters in the beautiful garden.Besides the fantastic Jerk cooked up at Scotchies, here are some of its other claims to fame. Its totally outdoor dining under grass thatch roofs. The prices are ridiculously reasonable and there’s plenty on the menu…everything from Jerk pork, chicken, sausage, steamed fish, roasted breadfruit, festival, and full bar service. The food is served in aluminum foil and everyone eats with their fingers, but the jerk chicken, pork, and fish are the best you’ll find anywhere. Wash it all down with a drink from the bar. So people, its thumbs up for Scotchies. Scotchies has my vote.

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