Best of the Day: JerkFest – June 26, 2015

Now in its third year, Caribbean cuisine extravaganza JerkFest has expanded to two days—giving you twice the opportunity to eat, drink, and be Irie.

Welcome to Best of the Day, our daily recommendation for what to check out around town. If you do one thing in Boston today, consider this.


Boston JerkFest

Boston JerkFest / Courtesy photo by Kenny Hyde

Much like the fiery spice blend itself, the history of Jamaican jerk is a murky mixture that’s equal parts exotic, colorful, and searingly painful. Epicurious reports:

The jerk method of flavoring meat originated with Jamaica’s native tribe, the Taino Indians, who cooked wild boar over fires made from the island’s allspice wood (called pimento in Jamaica). But it was in the 17th century that the dish began to take on its modern form, with the addition of a distinctive, spicy seasoning paste that helped marinate and tenderize the meat. This was the contribution of the Maroon people, former slaves who had escaped from Jamaica’s colonial plantations and fled inland to the forest, where they intermarried with the Taino. The Maroons had their own tradition, brought from Africa, of smoking meat in large pits, and they adopted the Tainos’ ingredients and added some of their own: fiery Scotch bonnet chiles, spices introduced from the East Indies by Europeans, and rum made from local sugarcane.

Despite its fraught backstory, jerk cooking continues to thrive long after Jamaica gained its independence from Europe. And there’s a good reason for that: It’s unbelievably delicious.

So it’s no surprise that JerkFest, now in its third year, is expanding from one day to two, giving people even more of a chance to revel in the most mouthwatering, palate-scorching delights that Boston has to offer—and wash it down with tasty rum drinks and other Caribbean-themed libations.

Tonight, JerkFest gets the party started with a Rum & Brew Tasting, complete with a “Caribbean Cocktail Throwdown,” in which a panel of mixologists will put their skills to the test with surprise ingredients. Attendees can sample rum, as well as craft beer, wine, mead, and hard cider.

Then on Saturday, JerkFest Food Festival takes over the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology for a full day of live music, kids’ activities, and—of course—massive amounts of food from more than a dozen vendors, plus chef demos and head-to-head jerk cook-offs. Take a trip down Spice Lane, and you’ll be rewarded with face-melting wares aplenty. “We promise that it will be a hot experience for you,” event organizers gleefully assure us.

Rum & Brew Tasting: $50, June 26, 6-9:30 p.m., JerkFest Food Festival: $20, June 27, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, 41 Berkeley St., Boston, bostonjerkfest.com.


Shaula Clark Shaula Clark, Associate Editor sclark@bostonmagazine.com