Looking for a way to “spice” up the Fourth of July holiday? Forget the hot dogs, hamburgers and backyard BBQ – pack up the family and head to Jamaica for a sumptuous culinary adventure during the Portland Jerk Festival (July 4th) and the Little Ochi Seafood Carnival (July 11th). Jamaica’s most famous culinary export – Jerk – will be front and center to tantalize the taste buds, served with a side of island vibes.
“Jamaica is celebrated for its delectable cuisine, a distinct product of the island’s rich culture and history,” said Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch. “The Portland Jerk Festival and Little Ochi Seafood Carnival honor the legacy of our distinct and unique flavors, as well as the people who take pride in preserving our culture and sharing it with curious minds and adventurous souls.”
The Portland Jerk Festival
Held at the Folly Estate in Portland, Jamaica, the eighth annual Portland Jerk Festival is a culinary and cultural experience for visitors and locals looking to sample Jamaica’s most famous style of cooking—Jerk. Starting at 10:00 a.m. on July 4, vendors will set up food stations to prepare and serve their own specialty jerk dishes, including jerk lobster, jerk conch, jerk fish, jerk sausage, jerk pork and jerk chicken, with such traditional side dishes as rice and peas, festival, breadfruit and yam.
A Kiddies Fun Village will feature rides, games and face painting, while the Cultural Village will include displays from local artists, drummers and traditional Junkanoo dancers. Veteran musicians, including Jamaican ska, calypso and soca band Byron Lee’s Dragonaires, will also perform, along with popular gospel and reggae artists. Admission is US$10.00 for each adult and US$3.50 per child.
Little Ochi Seafood Carnival
The carnival is a celebration of culinary delights that are famed on the South Coast. Little Ochi is nestled on the rugged beachfront of a quaint South Coast fishing village called Alligator Pond in Manchester. On July 11, visitors and locals will dine on the island’s unspoiled beach while enjoying the laid-back island atmosphere and hospitality. Patrons can anticipate local seafood infused with Jamaican flare including peppered shrimp, stewed conch and octopus, jerk lobster and foiled roasted fish. Guests can groove to the rhythmic sounds of reggae as they are entertained by Byron Lee’s Dragonaires and other local reggae musicians.
The Origins of Jerk
The technique of “jerking” is thought to have originated with the Maroons, descendents of slaves who were freed from their Spanish masters and lived in the island’s most remote mountain areas. Meat is first marinated for hours in an incendiary mixture of peppers, pimento seeds, scallion, thyme and then cooked over an outdoor pit lined with pimento wood. (The Maroons did the cooking underground to camouflage the smoke.) The low heat allows the meat to cook slowly, retaining the natural juices while becoming infused with the flavor of the wood and the different spices.