The history of Jamaican Patties

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Jamaican Patties, a popular dish known for their golden-yellow crust and flavorful fillings, have an intriguing history that’s as layered as the patties themselves.

The origins of the Jamaican Patty can be traced back to the Cornish pasty, introduced to the island by British colonialists in the 17th century. The pasty is a baked pastry traditionally filled with meat and vegetables, which was convenient for workers to eat as a complete meal.

However, the Jamaican Patty that we know today is a unique evolution that showcases the creativity and adaptability of Jamaican cuisine. The original British pasty was transformed by the addition of local ingredients and flavors.

The pastry for Jamaican Patties gets its distinctive yellow color from the addition of turmeric. The fillings, often a spicy blend of ground beef, chicken, or vegetables, reflect the diverse influences on Jamaican cuisine, including African, Indian, and Chinese. Scotch bonnet pepper, a staple of Jamaican cooking, is used to add heat to the fillings.

Jamaican Patties became popular in the mid-20th century as a street food and were often sold by vendors from bicycles or baskets. They quickly became a staple of Jamaican cuisine, loved for their affordability, convenience, and delicious flavor.

The patties are traditionally served in a coco bread—a soft, sweet bread roll—allowing for an easy, handheld meal. Today, the Jamaican Patty is enjoyed not just in Jamaica but all over the world, wherever Jamaican diaspora communities are found.

In essence, the story of the Jamaican Patty is a testament to Jamaica’s culinary resilience and creativity, taking a foreign concept and making it unmistakably their own.

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For the Patty Dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of turmeric (for the golden color)

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 cup of iced water (you may not need all of this)

Ingredients for the Patty Filling:

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely chopped (adjust to your heat preference)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 lb of ground beef

1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

1 cup of beef or chicken broth

Salt to taste

For the Egg Wash:

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon of water

Please remember that Scotch bonnet peppers are very hot. Adjust the quantity to your preference and always handle them with gloves to avoid skin irritation. Also, while this recipe uses a beef filling, you can also fill the patties with other ingredients such as chicken, vegetables, or even seafood.

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Preparation of the Chicken:

Begin by cleaning the chicken. Remove any feathers or excess fat, rinse well, and pat dry. If using a whole chicken, cut it into quarters or smaller pieces, as per your preference.

Making the Jerk Marinade:

In a large bowl, combine the ground allspice, ground nutmeg, salt, black pepper, and raw sugar. Add the finely chopped garlic, Scotch bonnet peppers, grated ginger, chopped thyme leaves, and chopped scallions. Mix everything together. Then add the soy sauce, white vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, and vegetable oil to the mixture. Grate the zest of one lime into the marinade and stir until well combined.

Marinating the Chicken:

Place the chicken pieces in a large, resealable plastic bag (or a large bowl if a bag is not available). Pour the jerk marinade over the chicken, ensuring all pieces are well coated. Seal the bag or cover the bowl and refrigerate. Marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours, but for the best flavor, let it marinate overnight.

Cooking the Chicken:

When ready to cook, preheat your grill to medium heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill, allow the charcoal to burn until it’s white-ashy. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess. Reserve the remaining marinade for basting. Place the chicken pieces on the grill, skin side down. Cook, turning and basting with the leftover marinade frequently, for about 40-50 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.

If you don’t have a grill, you can also bake the jerk chicken in an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake for about 45-55 minutes, basting occasionally, until cooked through.

Serving the Chicken:

Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill or oven and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Serve the jerk chicken with traditional Jamaican sides like rice and peas or fried plantains, or with a fresh salad. Enjoy!

Remember: Always be careful when handling raw chicken and ensure it is cooked thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.

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