Many good things have been said about Jamaican snacks or snack foods by native and non-native lovers of Jamaican snacks.
Some express their surprise at the fine quality of the different types of fare, such as, biscuits (cookies), crackers, breads, tarts, pies, and cakes. And many more world-class accepted snacks that are uniquely Jamaican.
While other Jamaican pies and tarts have made their way into the worlds’ kitchens, Beef Patty is the number one choice of many snack lovers around the world. We will talk some more on that later.
What are uniquely Jamaican about our Jamaican snacks are, for the most part, our definitions.
We have very few formal definitions for “in between meals.” And to say that we snack is right in the true sense of the word, but the word “snack” is not too prevalent in the Jamaican language (patois – Jamaican Creole English).
We would rather define snacks as; “Treats” usually wrapped or bagged in plastic and have cute little names like: Cheese Crunches, Cheese Trix, Saltine Biscuits, and Water Crackers. Mind you, we do eat a lot of in between meals; however it is our perception about these meals that make us narrowly define them as something other than “snacks.”
For argument sake let’s use the term snack/ snacks for Jamaican snacks, or “in between meals.” But be forewarned that this is just for this article because if you bump into some “know-it-all” preservationist, who knows how you’ll be corrected. Cool?
Now let me try to categorize Jamaican snacks as best I can. The three most common categories are: Natural, Artificial, and Combination – What? Ok… We’ll start with natural Jamaican snacks because they are easy to find and readily available throughout the world, sometimes under different names.
Natural : – Many different types of Coconuts, Mangoes, Apples, Sugar-Cane, Berries, Guinneps, Tamarinds, Papaws, Oranges, and Grapefruits. We also have Almond, June Plum, Hog Plum, Soursop, Sweetsop, Pomegranate, and Bird Cherry. These are just a few of the nature foods we like to eat anytime they are in season, and we eat them as Jamaican snacks.
Artificial : – Sugar and flour are the main ingredients of our artificial Jamaican snacks. Brown sugar being king for so long, you would not have to wonder why.
And I know the world has some of the same types of pastries that we like, so there is no surprise if we mention snacks like, Biscuits, Breads, Sugar-based drinks, Candies, Tarts, Pies, Puddings, and Cakes, just to name a few.
Combination Snacks : - I use the term combination, because we combine natural and artificial ingredients to make Jamaican snacks like, coconut drops, gizzada, grater cake, sweet potato pudding, grapefruit and milk,cornmeal pudding, blue draws (dukunoo),cow foot jello, peanut drops, tamarind balls,matrimony, egg custard, and fruit salads. That’s just some of the combination snacks that are uniquely Jamaican.
Now let’s talk about one of the worlds’ favorite Jamaican snack,Beef Patty.Beef Patties are available everywhere through Jamaica; it is the officially designated “lunch food.” But it is also a snack too, because it is offered as something to eat between lunch and dinner, at times. However, I have never seen beef patties served before breakfast in Jamaica.
What would you call a Jamaican snack that is served before breakfast? Hmmm...I wonder!
Jamaican beef patties are becoming popular all over North America, Europe, and to a lesser extent Southeast Asia. This I will attribute to the mass migration of people from Jamaica, for many years, to other parts of the world, and the popularity and curiosity about Jamaican culture in general.
I have seen varieties of frozen Jamaican beef patties sold in North American groceries in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Miami. And I know these patties will eventually get to your part of the world soon, if not already.
This delicious meat pie is craved by everyone. But there is one drawback…taste. Why is that a drawback? Well, there is no established standard as to what beef patties are supposed to taste like.
Of course it is beef, so that beef taste is always there, but the amount of seasonings used in making the filling varies in different degrees. And that sometimes make all the difference.
One baker will make beef patties taste his/her way and another will do a little bit different just to make things more interesting.
And the beef patty crust can make your patties the talk of the town, one way or another. Another thing, commercial grade beef patties are different from home-made types, so don’t go beating up on your self if your home-made patties aren’t like the ones you bought at a patty shop or restaurant. Alright?...Cool!
Here are some uniquely Jamaican snacks:
Remove coconut flesh from the shell using a knife. Cut up coconut into ¼” pieces, please don’t measure the pieces when you do this, just estimate as close as possible.
Rinse in cold water to remove the small leftover shell pieces. Bring water to boil in a saucepan, and then add all ingredients. Allow to boil for about 40 minutes on high.
Stir the pot occasionally with a wooden spoon to let the sugar keep from binding too fast. When the brew starts to develop some consistency, remove by spoonfuls and place on a greased surface.
Wait until the drops are cool, in about 20 minutes, then serve as a snack.
Wash the star apples to remove dirt or foreign matter, and then cut them in halves. Remove the pulp with the seeds and further remove the seeds afterwards. Remove the peel from the oranges using your fingers; make sure the inner skin is removed from the oranges. Tear orange pegs apart to separate them.
Remove the thin membrane from the orange juice sacks with a knife. Combine star apple pulp with oranges and condensed milk in a bowl. Mix together with a spoon. Sprinkle with grated nutmeg. Serve in 12 oz cups.
Wash grapefruit and then cut in halves. Use a fork to prick the flesh to loosen up the juice in the grape fruit. Pour the milk on the grapefruit flesh use a small spoon to mix the milk and flesh together.
Be patient and gentle while doing this as some of the juice will ooze a little. Use the spoon and remove small portions and immediately eat to your heart's content.
If you’re going to serve this as dessert, remove the grapefruit pulp from the shell and place it in a bowl, and then add the sweetened condensed milk. You can add a drop of vanilla flavor to each serving if you like to.
Note: This sweet potato pudding is totally different from sweet potato pie. The kind of sweet potato we use to make this pudding is called Boniato by some people. If you use the orange colored sweet potato, which is called yams, the pudding may not turn out the way it should.
Mix in flour, baking powder, potato, yam, and raisins together. Now warm the coconut milk, and add the butter, brown sugar, vanilla flavoring, and grated nutmeg to it. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved. Combine potato and coconut milk mixture, stir until smooth.
Grease baking pan with butter, and pour into pan. Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes. You need to Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheight. Bake for about an hour then remove the pudding.
Stick a dining knife in to the middle of the pudding and pull the knife out fast. If the knife has any of the pudding mixture on it, put it back in the oven and let bake for another 40 minutes. Check the pudding again with the knife. If the pudding is not ready, bake for another 10 minutes, it will be ready then.
Let the pudding cool overnight. You can serve it with breakfast, lunch, or as a snack.
You could also spice up this pudding by adding a small amount of wine to the ingredients, if you so desire.
Here is an all time favorite Jamaican Snack called "bun" from a good friend of mine.
Buns are usually eaten with cheddar cheese, especially at Easter.Although buns are commonplace in Jamaica, the Easter Bun is usually made with more ingredients, since its a once a year Jamaican Snack.
BY Locksley F. Smith (Revised March 26th, 2005)
Ingredients: - Flour, Brown Sugar, Wet Sugar or Molasses, New Zealand Cheddar Cheese, one bottle of Port Wine (use PORTA if you are in Jamaica), Dried Orange Peal, Raisins, Currants, Cherries, Mixed Fruits, Almond Extract, Vanilla Extract, Butter, Rose Water, Cinnamon Powder, Salt and Yeast.
Make One Dozen Buns:
1. Put seven 1/4 OZ.packages of dry Yeast in a 7 gallon pot
2. Add 3 tsp. salt
3. Add seven cups of hot water to the yeast and let it set for 10 minutes then stir.
4. Add 3lbs of flour then mix to a glue soft watery texture and let it set until mixed flour rises to the top of the pot. Caution:If the flour does not rise, your buns will notcome out right. Change the yeast you are using.
5. Dice Cheddar Cheese and Parched Dried Orange Peel.
6. Pour 750 ml. bottle of Port wine in a container and then add 1 bottle of molasses, 5lbs of brown sugar or wet sugar, 1 tsp. of salt, 4 tbsp. of Cinnamon Powder, 1 cup of dried parched orange peel, 1 tbsp. of Almond Extract, 3 tbsp. of Vanilla Extract, 2 tbsp. of Rose Water and 1 tsp. salt and then stir.
7. Empty raised flour from pot to the dough kneading table or countertop.
8. Add 12lbs of flour, 2lbs of mixed fruit, 2lbs raisins, 1 pint of cherry 5 packages of diced cheddar cheese to the raised flour.
9. Add mix from step 6 then start to knead dough.
10. Knead until it becomes tight and firm, this will take awhile so you will have to be paitent.
11. Grease your baking pans with butter, cut and shape buns to your desire, and add dough to pans. You may choose not use baking pans and instead form the buns with your hand and bake them on a baking sheet, one or the other it does not matter.
12. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
13. Place buns in oven for 1Hr 15 minutes
MAKE THE GLAZE
14. Put wine mix in container in a small pot and boil for 10 minutes, this will make the glaze to give the buns a finished appearance, and taste.
15. After the buns are fully baked, brush on the glaze with a small brush using wine mix from small pot.
16. Wrap buns while hot with plastic wrap and let them sit overnight at room temperature.
17.Clean up your mess.
Although this recipe makes 12 buns, you can reduce the size of the buns and you will get more than enough to give away to your friends and loved ones.
Ingredients for Meat Filling:
Mix flour and curry powder or tumeric, beef suet, and margarine together in until they look like crumbs. Add the cold water to the mixture to make dough.
Sprinkle some flour on the cleaned countertop and roll the dough with a rolling pin. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a smooth soda bottle.
Roll until the dough is about 1/8” thick.
Use a saucer or bowl to make circular cuts in the dough. Let the pieces sit in a bowl for about 30 minutes, or while you are making the meat filling.
Method for Meat Filling :
Brown ground beef in a skillet, and then add onions, thyme, scotch bonnet pepper, salt, sugar, and scallions. Turn the heat to medium.
Use a fork or spatula to fold in the ingredients. Now add beef stock and allow the meat to cook for about 20 minutes, and then add bread crumbs to the pot.
Cook for another 7 minutes, taste meat and add more salt if needed.
Baking the Patties
You need to pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add spoons of meat filling to the pre-cut dough pieces. Fold over dough to form a half-moon shape.
Use the end of a dining fork to seal the crescent edge of the patty while making a pattern.
Place the patties on a lightly greased baking sheet and brush each patty with a little oil or melted margarine.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes.
You can “experiment” with this recipe until you get the desired patties you like. For example could use different types of filling like chicken, seafood, or vegetable.
The possibilities are endless with this Jamaican snack.
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