This past Christmas we did secret Santa at work. With our growing family sometimes it gets tough to buy for everyone so I’ve been opting out of secret Santa lately, but this year I decided to join in. My gift was a Pyrex baking dish that came with a thermal carrying case, lid and hot/cold pack. It was a nice surprise! The same person that I had for secret Santa had me. He has a shiny bald head and is always looking cold so I bought him some nice winter hats!
For weeks my gift stayed in the trunk and one day I finally brought it inside the house. To my surprise, when i opened the Pyrex dish, I found jerk seasoning, curry seasoning and a cookbook. I love cookbooks! I spent the next hour reading though the cookbook. It was a Jamaican/Caribbean cookbook, full of history, tradition, and glossary of terms (since the book shares island slang). The book even had a section with ideas for entertaining guests, including bar tender arrangements and appetizer and cocktail recipes! I loved my Christmas present.
I go to work the next day and I am telling my coworkers about the great surprise and they told me who my secret Santa was. My secret Santa is Jamaican and I learned that he was worried that I may be insulted by the gift, worried that I may feel like he was forcing his traditions on me. I went to him, gave him a hug, and thanked him for the gift. I told him half of my family is Jamaican and that he didn’t need to worry because I loved the gift and that I was excited to try out the recipes. Here starts my spicy story…
I decided to make Jerk pork with mango sauce. This recipe walks you through how to make jerk paste from scratch. I went to the store and bought all of the spices and herbs necessary for making my dish. This list of ingredients included Scotch bonnet peppers, coriander, culantro, ginger, coconut oil, garlic, scallions, thyme, and more. The recipe would feed 12 but there are only three of us at home, so I did some math to calculate a smaller quantity. After I mixed everything in my food processor, it was time to taste it. It was SSSSSSSPICY! Oh my goodness it was spicy. My tongue felt numb, my senses awakened. My wife and I quickly scrambled to find something to add that would cut the spiciness. (She always says that sweet cuts spicy) So we chose brown sugar as our super hero to fight the scotch bonnets, which by the way I learned were the culprit of the excessive spiciness. My coworker says I should’ve used two instead of four. Hey, don’t judge me…I thought I was in the safe zone since the recipe called for 12 scotch bonnets. For those of you who don’t know, (it’s ok, I just learned this recently myself) scotch bonnets are spicy peppers.
Anyway, so we add brown sugar, I smother the pork shoulder in it and put it in the fridge to marinate. We nervously waited two days and then decide that before throwing it into the oven we should rinse it a bit. Pork shoulder in oven, we busied ourselves for hours with other things while anxiously awaiting the unveiling of our first Caribbean dish! Finally it was time for the taste test. The pork was so flavorful and juicy. It was amazing how you can taste all the hints of every spice and herb used. It still had a bit of a kick so my wife added a little honey and put it back in the oven for another half hour. It was heavenly.