Think Jamaican food, and Jerk is usually the first word that comes to mind. Spicy may be the second. Jamaicans and visitors alike are gearing up to be “Celebrating the Origins of Jerk” at the Portland Jerk Festival, which will take place on July 5 at the Folly Estate in Portland. With the recent announcement of Jamaica’s culinary Jerk Trail, the island’s newest and spiciest attraction, extra excitement has built up in anticipation of the annual Portland Jerk Festival, home of Jerk cuisine.
Jamaica’s Director of Tourism John Lynch said “This colorful festival has become a great favorite among locals and visitors alike. Cuisine plays a huge role in our culture and history, especially jerk cuisine, and being able to share the experience is very important.”
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.
Portland Jerk Festival
With opening time set for 10:00 a.m., vendors set up food stations where they prepare and serve their own specialty jerk dishes. Attendees will enjoy the creative dishes, which include Jerk Lobster, Jerk Conch, Jerk Sausage, Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken and the traditional side dishes such as rice and peas, festival, breadfruit and yam.
For true family entertainment, families and children will enjoy the Kiddies Fun Village featuring rides, games, face painting and entertainment, and the Cultural Village featuring drumming, junkonoo and traditional dancing. Veteran Jamaican musicians, including Byron Lee’s Dragonnaires, will be performing, along with a number of popular gospel, pop, and soca artistes.
A big favorite with groups of family and friends, this upbeat event attracts visitors from all over the island and arrangements are in place with hotels and guesthouses in the Port Antonio area to offer preferred rates for attendees.
The staging of the festival illustrates sponsor, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s (JTB’s) overall marketing strategy to promote Jamaica as a destination offering a rich diversity in cuisine, cultural heritage and natural beauty.
There will be a shuttle service from the capital, Kingston to the event. Admission is US$10.00 for each adult and US$3.50 per child.