Caribbean Inspired Grilling
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
barbeque Caribbean Cuban grilling Jamaican jerk
If giving us warm sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and tropical cocktails isn’t enough, we can also thank the Caribbean for introducing the world to grilling. There are several theories on how both grilling as a cooking technique and the term barbeque traveled from the tropics, landing in our backyards.
Caribbean origins of griling and barbeque
What we now know as barbeque is said to have originated with the indigenous people of the Caribbean. The earliest island tribes smoked and preserved their “catch of the day” over an open flame or fire pit. Most often, they smoked whatever they caught off the coastline, including manatee. On occasion, an ill-fated enemy tribe leader might even fall victim to the conquering tribe’s barbeque! These early tribes built a wooden frame, known as a buccan, over the flame. Any meat hung on the frame would be either roasted or smoked from the fire.
As French explorers entered the scene and began hunting feral cattle and wild pigs, they adopted and modified these frames to smoke their game. Shortly, buccan became the French boucanier or buccaneer. But eventually, buccaneer became synonymous with the pirates, whether French, Spanish, Dutch, or Portuguese, who attacked trade ships and conquered tribes around the Caribbean.
Another theory on the term barbeque is that it may have originated from the Spanish phrase barba a cola, which translates to beard to tail, or the idea of using up the whole of a hunted animal. The French are said to have a similar phrase, barbe a queue.
The most accepted origin of the term barbeque, however, is that it's a Spanish derivation from the original concept of buccan. It originates from the Haitian term barbacoa. Spanish explorers used this term not only to refer to the method of cooking meat over a framework of sticks on an open flame but also to the cooked meat itself.
Whether you're grilling or barbecuing, wind down the season with a taste of the tropics. Explore the islands from your own backyard by trying one of these Caribbean-inspired blends or recipes.
Bajan Seasoning: We introduced this blend in 2013 after Savory’s founders, Janet and Mike Johnston, took a trip to Barbados and fell in love with the island’s traditional, all-purpose seasoning. Our version is herb-y, with hints of lime and a touch of heat from the habanero chiles. It makes a delicious marinade for grilled pork or shrimp; top either with a Bajan Pineapple BBQ sauce for some sweet heat. If you really like to turn up the heat with your grilling, try our Bajan Hot Pepper Grilled Chicken with Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce. As one Savory fan puts it, “Ooooo, it’s hot!”
Barrier Reef Caribbean Style Seasoning: The citrus flavor and heat from the pepper in this salt-free blend match the bright sun and inviting warmth of the Caribbean. We just love this blend on fish: sprinkle it over your favorite piece of fish or a skewer of shrimp, throw it on the grill, and finish with a splash of fresh squeezed lime. (Can you taste the beach yet?) For a more decadent but equally easy recipe, try our Caribbean All-Purpose Glaze over grilled salmon, vegetables, or fruit.
Cuban Island Spice: New to the Caribbean line-up this year, our Cuban Island Spice has quickly become a customer favorite. You can easily grill (instead of pan sear) the chicken and pork cutlets used in the Bistro Cubano, our take on a traditional Cuban sandwich. Our friends at Savory Spice Shop in Sellwood/Portland, OR brought the islands to the Pacific Northwest with their easy Juicy Cuban Island Marinade for chicken, pineapple, or zucchini. One taste and you’ll wish summer would never end.
Jamaican Jerk Seasoning: We recently improved our Jamaican Jerk Seasoning to be more authentic. We increased the allspice and added scotch bonnet chile peppers, both of which are key to traditional Jamaican cuisine. For an island experience in your own backyard, use our new Jamaican Jerk Smoking Set to create a smoker in your gas or charcoal grill. While we love to make traditional jerk chicken, our Jamaican Jerk Marinade recipe can also be used for pork, shrimp, vegetables, and tofu. If you’re craving one last burger this summer, one of our favorites is the Jamaican Jerk Burgers with Grilled Pineapple & Avocado Dip.