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Jamaican Jerk Pork and Pineapple Skewers

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The Taino way of charqui – smoking strips of meat over a lattice of green allspice wood, covered with leaves from the allspice tree, and seasoned with crushed allspice berries – gave rise to both Jamaican jerk and to jerky. The Taino barbacoa evolved into barbecue.

Today allspice is a kitchen staple, beloved of pie bakers, sausage makers, and all sorts of cooks in between. In this jerked pork, you put ground allspice in the marinade for slowly penetrating the meat. You also flavor the fire itself by putting soaked allspice berries right on the coals, for spicy smoke. If you have access to actual allspice wood, feel free to put that on the fire instead, as the Taino did. Meantime, if you don’t happen to live in the Carribean, soaked berries are my suggested substitute.

Jerk Pork and Pineapple Skewers
The recipe

The long marinating time makes for tender meat and a mellow, rich seasoning. The sweet pineapple plays nicely against the spicy jerk flavors.

3 pounds pork, shoulder or butt, cut in 1 1/2″ cubes
1 fresh pineapple
Fresh lime slices
2 tablespoons whole allspice, soaked in water 1 hour or more
bamboo skewers, soaked in water 1 hour or more

Marinade:
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup peanut or other light-flavored oil
Juice of 1 1/2 limes, or 1/4 cup lime juice
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 habanero pepper, minced
2 tsp. salt

Step 1: Marinate

Combine marinade ingredients in a one- or two-gallon zip-top bag. Add pork cubes. Seal top and mix and massage through bag until cubes are covered and marinade is well distributed. Open top enough to press out as much air as possible, and reseal.

Store in refrigerator for at least three days or up to a week. Any longer, and your pork will begin to pickle!
Step 2: Grill

Cut pineapple into 1 1/2″ to 2″ chunks.

Remove pork from marinade. Discard marinade.

Thread bamboo skewers, each with three pieces of pork and two pieces of pineapple, alternating pork with pineapple. Don’t overload the skewers, as that’ll only make them difficult to manipulate on the hot grill.

Fire up your grill. When the coals are ready, sprinkle the whole allspice berries admidst them.

Place skewers on the grill over the hot coals. Use tongs to turn and reposition the skewers every minute or so until the pork is tender, browned on the outside and fully cooked. It should take about 10 to 15 minutes cooking time.

Eaters can squeeze lime juice over the skewers, individually on their plates.

This goes beautifully with Jamaican mango chutney and the lightly-sweet, vanilla-scented Jamaican fritters known as festival.

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