Best Recipe for Jamaican Stew Pork
Jamaicans love pork, and the second most popular way to have pork is stewed. We like our meats dark—whether they're grilled, broiled, or stewed. It is customary to use a darkening agent on the meat to give it some color. The other thing to do is to brown the meat, then stew it in its sauces.
The pork stew recipe below can be done how you like, as long as it's dark and has a gravy when you are done—then you have your stewed pork.
Jamaican-style pork stew is different from the European or American version. Whereas the American pork stew has lots of vegetables and potatoes that make it a wonderful, hearty meal, you have to serve your pork as a meat dish here in Jamaica. (See below for some additions and variations.) I serve this with our traditional rice and peas and a salad.
- 2 pounds pork stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 medium brown onion, chopped
- 2 stalks scallion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 heaping tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- salt (optional)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large thyme sprig
- 1 piece of fresh ginger, about 1 inch, smashed or sliced
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon pimento seeds, cracked
A Note on Salt
Salt is optional because the seasonings are already salty. I omit the salt altogether. You can taste the sauce and adjust the salt to your taste.
Additions and Variations
Most households will add something to their pork stew other than the plain pork. Here are what Jamaicans will add to their stew pork. Choose one of the following:
- 1 cup carrots, sliced
- 1 medium potato, diced
- 1 cup broad beans, cooked (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)
- 1 cup green peas (or 1 small can)
You may add your preferred type of vegetable to your stew, but you must remember that this dish is not a one-pot meal and will be served with a starch and salad.
- Before you cut up your pork, I recommend rinsing it in some vinegar or a lime juice solution. Pat dry your pork with paper towels.
- Cube your meat and set in a bowl.
- To the bowl, add all other ingredients except for oil. Marinate for at least 2 hours before cooking. It's best to do this overnight.
- In a dutch oven, heat oil on high until it's almost smoking. While oil is heating, shake off the scallion, onion, garlic, and all seasoning pieces. Reserve.
- Add all the pieces of meat to the hot oil and cover. Keep turning the meat to ensure that all sides get browned. Let the pork brown, covered, until all pieces are nice and brown. Keeping the meat covered ensures that the meat does not dry out.
- When the pork is nice and brown, drain any excess oil, add 1 cup of water, and reduce flames to medium. Each time the water evaporates, add 1 cup at a time until the meat is tender. Keep checking the meat to make sure you don't overcook it. You will know when the pork is tender when the meat starts to fall away from the bone.
- When the meat is tender, add the reserved seasoning and 1 cup of water, if needed. Reduce flames to medium low. Cover and let simmer until your sauce is nice and consistent to your liking. I like my sauce medium-thick, but you may thicken your sauce to your liking.
- Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
- Turn off flames when your sauce is ready.
There are only a few things consistent with your Jamaican pork stew: the color, onions, garlic, scallion, thyme, ginger, and pimento.
The type of coloring you put on your pork is up to you. Here are a few suggestions.
Browning Agent Options
- Supermarket Browning: This is browning that is sold in the supermarkets and used mainly for baking. It is really just a coloring agent, as it doesn't add much flavor, and it's quite thick. For 2 pounds of pork, you should only use 2 drops. Use a syringe or teaspoon to add this to your meat, or you may run the risk of adding too much.
- Teriyaki or Worcestershire: You can also use Teriyaki or Worcestershire sauce. These will give the pork unique flavors.
- Sugar Browning: This is totally homemade. I hate the taste of the commercial browning, so I make my own. It's not as dark, but it tastes better. See the recipe below.
How to Make Sugar Browning
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- I add 3 tablespoons sugar to a small saucepan and let that boil until the sugar gets chocolaty dark and starts to give that burnt smell. Do not stir yet, but make sure all the sugar is boiling.
- Next, add 4 tablespoons water. Swirl sauce pan, then add another 3 or 4 tablespoons water. Let it boil a little, then stir to dissolve any sugar that is sticking to the bottom.
It may take awhile to get the hang of it, but you'll get it with practice. Your browning should have no lumps or burnt particles in it, and it should be the consistency of maple syrup. If you see black stuff at the bottom of the pot, then it's likely your browning is too bitter.
Make your browning a day before it's needed so you are sure it turns out okay. Add 1 teaspoon of this to your meat and store the balance in an airtight bottle or jar for future use.
Instead of the coriander, celery salt, garlic salt, and onion powder that I used, you may use your preferred powdered spices, such as:
- Pork spice or bouillon
- Meat stock in the gravy instead of water
- Whatever additional spices you might prefer
As I mentioned, flavor your pork your way. But be sure to keep the basic fresh herbs intact (the garlic, onion, thyme, pimento, and ginger are a must).
© 2012 Carolee Samuda