The Jerk Cook Out 2010

I snubbed breakfast and arrived absolutely ravenous and half an hour an hour early for the Jerk Cook Out. I wanted to get the measure of the place, formulate a plan of attack and talk to some of the cooks. As the meat hit the grill and the smoke started twisting above the trees though, I got impatient and began repeatedly texting and calling my friends until one of them turned up; some pleasantries were exchanged (“how are you?” “yes yes fine whatever so let’s go to this place first then this then this…”) and we were off.

Tasty Jerk have won the competition two years running. I asked them if they fancied their chances but the answer came that they were just in it for kicks; if you win twice in a row then you have to take a year off. We got stuck right into some of their jerk pork belly. The fat was like eating the pork scratchings of my dreams. I like a touch more cloves in the mix but the allspice was prominent enough and I wonder if they put berries in the coals to infuse the smoke. As styles go it was more dry rub than sticky glaze but there was skill in the cooking and confidence in the spice.

There are different styles of jerk; there’s the all-in-one marinade and then the dry rub and glaze. I want to experiment with the latter. Some places seemed to be serving the meat with a sweeter sauce on the side. Last year’s runners up Jerk Lan took this approach, with disappointing results. Their sign urged us to ASK FOR SPECIAL SAUCE and so of course we did, which was a shame because it ruined the meat. I was thinking hot pepper paste with a donkey kick but instead we got saccharine gloop which seemed to be a mixture of the worst sweet and sour sauce of my life, sugar syrup and water. We could only judge the meat by licking the crusted remnants of chicken skin from the corners of our mouths, which, incidentally, were good and garlicky.

Over a swift pint of Meantime Pale Ale at The Florence it was time to re-group and digest before riding back on the second wind. My friend enjoyed our third portion better, although I can’t say I thought much of it. The real surprise came in the form of a spit roasted lamb, again from Tasty Jerk. Shards of crunchy skin and fat with a proper heat elevated to an out of body experience by the accompanying chilli sauce.

The lurid artificial hue of a drink is directly proportional to its level of efficacy in quenching the fire in your mouth. Everyone should know this. A couple of Slush Puppies the colour of 1980’s neon leg warmers brought us back from the endorphin super highway. Thought you’d turned your back on the SP at ten years of age? Think again.

The problem with an event getting bigger of course, is that quality becomes diluted. Our pork and lamb were great, although I did know of them and make a beeline. A later impulsive purchase of curry goat was watery and timidly spiced but there were so many places to choose from, it was hard to know where to start over-indulging. When considering this conundrum, it seemed that my only chink of light would come in the form of my judging the competition, so that I could visit each and every stall. I would systematically work the field, savouring each nugget of pork, fish and chicken like it was my last before slipping peacefully into a jerk coma.

And then I’d wake up.

The annual Jerk Cook Out Festival takes place in Brockwell Park (formerly Horniman Museum) in August. Dates vary so keep an eye out. This year’s event ran from 12-6pm.

If you like jerk check out my jerk recipe and my top tips for great jerk.

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23 thoughts on “The Jerk Cook Out 2010

  1. I am embarresed to say that we as South African’s always claimed to be the only people who knowns a barbecue(braai) in and out. Clearly we have some stiff competition in this world. Great coverage of the event!!

  2. It was indeed a great day… We got there super early and took the time to walk around and chat with all the stalls…

    Must say we were disappointed there was no Crab on show and also a lot of the chicken was just not SPICEY enough for me – My own jerk is daaaaaym spicy! The line for tastyjerk was ridiculous by 4pm – we stood in it for 20 mins before realising we hadn’t moved!!

    The Pork belly was the highlight as was Pints at the Florence which I’ve never been to before – fantastic pub!!!!

    I should have my shots from the day up on my blog this arvo
    http://miseenplace.co.uk/blog/index.php/recipes/whole-baked-snapper-with-cherry-tomatoes-garlic-and-rosemary-smashed-potatoes/

    Cheers for the heads up Helen

  3. Ah my 15 seconds of fame. Agree with most that has been said here though – Tasty Jerk was the best but only because the others were rather subdued. Smokey Jerky is at least as good as Tasty Jerk and they have a more interesting selection of hot sauces too.

  4. We managed to get into the Tasty Jerk queue early and only had to wait about 5 minutes…and got first carving on that spit roast lamb! Dear god, that was good!

    We also hit another stall (name escapes me) where we got jerk brie. Much more delicious than it sounds believe me!

  5. Hi Helen

    Went for the first time this year. No crab claws to be found! Mightily disappointed.

    Had pork from Tasty Jerk which was pretty good and a chicken wrap from somewhere else that was less so. BBQ’d corn-on-the-cob and some coconut water finished a good day. But like some others, I wasn’t blown away.

    A new jerk place at Peckham Rye station was giving away free tasters on Sat afternoon and they were head and shoulders above what I had on Sunday at the Festival. Check them out.

  6. Dominic – Me too! And they were serving up on plates last year…

    Leila – I didn’t get to try that cake which is a shame because it sounds flippin fantastic.

    Sharmila – Yep, you have to work it like a pro, that festival, otherwise it’s really disappointing.

    Lizzie – True dat.

  7. You’ve hit the nail on the head for me, here. I found the cookout pretty frustrating for the fact that I had no way of ascertaining where the good stuff was (save for the massive queue outside Tasty Jerk). I also had the weird gloopy sauce at Jerk Lan – a real shame, as the chicken was okay (thought I felt missing that real kick and depth you get from seriously long marinading).

    I ended up eating two average portions of jerk (chicken and pork), then queueing up at Tasty Jerk for 15 mins before concluding I can easily travel down to Crystal Palace (or wherever it is) whenever I want and can get some Tasty Jerk some other time. Then I went to the pub.

    All in all, not the revelatory jerk experience I was anticipating.

  8. Hi Helen, thanks to you I was there with some other jerk fans! Also got there early and managed to put away at least 2 portions before the queues got silly. And then probably another 2 after they did! I went to Tasty Jerk too, without knowing their champion track record — must have been drawn in by something special!

    As well as the staggering choice of jerk on offer, highlights included sugar cane and some blissful rum cake made by someone called Auntie D — did you spot her? The cake was so moist I was genuinely baffled by how it managed to stay together in a slice; I half expected it to melt into a liquid pool of boozy deliciousness any moment.

    Was half looking out for you but got distracted by BBQ haze very quickly. Was a great day, I’m sure this will be the first of many annual visits. Thanks for the tip! x

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