One of our ongoing projects here at Feed Me…I’m Hungry is our ‘World Food Tour’ where we take time to find out more about culture and food from around the world. Right now we’re checking out the island cuisine of Jamaica so read on for more…
So I’m ready to get back to the World Food Tour, though I’ve decide to structure things a little differently. From now on you can expect to see Food Tour posts mixed in which other types of posts about once a week or so. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to move on to somewhere of personal significance to me, Jamaica! My Dad’s side of the family comes from Jamaica and Haiti. My Grandfather has done some family history research and we can also trace branches of the family back to Lebanon and Scotland. Kind of electric. But my Dad and Uncle were actually born in Jamaica and came to the US as kids. The family settled in New York City. And later my parents moved out to Colorado where I was born. (My Mom really misses some favorite foods from NYC like bagels, NY style cheesecake, and proper NY style pizza which we haven’t ever really found in CO, so we’ll have to work on that at some point too!)
My Dad has a lot of neat memories of Jamaica as a kid. He’s told me of being sent outside to play in the morning and biking the length of the island with friends, returning only at the end of the day for dinner. He remembers being free to run, climb, play on the beach, and generally romp all around the island. He remembers picking ripe mangos right out of the trees for lunch. And he remembers coming home to find my Grandma making Jamaican patties for dinner. (Update 7/17/16: As you can see in the comments, I stand corrected, it wouldn’t be possible for a kids to travel the length of Jamaica in a day. Perhaps this is one of those exaggerated family stories? Perhaps I miss-remember the telling as a kid. Who knows?)
Jamaican patties are big, vibrant yellow (sometimes even violently yellow), half moons, stuffed with a well seasoned spicy ground beef mixture. Cumin, red pepper, and onion are among the traditional seasonings. The bright yellow crust comes from turmeric in the dough. The texture is kind of like a flaky pie crust. If you’ve ever had an Emapnada you’ll find patties to be similar in texture and construction, if not flavor. In Jamaica patties are eaten for pretty much any meal of the day, breakfast included. They are also often paired with coco bread to make a fuller meal. (Actually you make a sandwich with the patty and the coco bread by opening up the bread and stuffing the patty inside.) Which I suppose makes no sense as patties already have a carby crust. But really can you object to extra bread/carbs? I think not.
Once the family ended up in NYC my Grandma stopped making the patties at home since they could be purchased inexpensively, fresh made, from vendors in the city. (If you live in NYC and haven’t tried a Jamaican Patty get on it!) When I was a little kid visiting my Grandparents in NY they always took me to purchase patties. We would have patties for dinner or even breakfast several times while I was in town.
Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge there is nowhere in Colorado where you can buy Jamaican patties! Lucky for me patties freeze extremely well. For years my very sweet Grandparents have purchased patties in NY, frozen them, and mailed them on dry ice, to both my parents and I, so we can get our fix out here! (Update 7/17/16: I have discovered that you CAN buy frozen patties, at the dollar store, of all places! Still this is the only place I’ve found them to purchase in my area after checking Sam’s, Walmart, etc. I also hear we have a Jamaican restaurant a little drive away from me, so I’ll have to check them out sometime soon. I assume they will serve patties.)
A while back my Grandparents moved out to Florida where proper Jamaican patties can not be found! Though you can buy Haitian cocktail patties. But they are really totally different so we can address them another time. I’ve been patty-less for a while now, so I’ve finally had to learn to make my own to get my fix! (Update 7/17/16: Ok, shouldn’t have knocked the entire state of Florida’s cooking skills. There are still no patties I consider awesome near my grandparents place, but I now have it on good authority that there are other locations in Florida where you can find a mighty fine patty. So if you live in Florida go eat some.)
Sadly, my grandmother no longer remembers her recipe, so I’ve had to cobble together a recipe the best I can based on tastes I remember. My mother in law, who loves a good cooking challenge helped me with project and we had a blast. As we worked on the recipe we took into account some practical considerations, such as ease of finding ingredients, or using the simplest method possible to create a crisp crust in my less then perfect home oven. So, this recipe may not be perfectly authentic but it does make a darn good patty, fairly similar to those I remember as a kid. Perhaps that means I should have have called these Jamaican inspired patties? But I feel like that sounds kinda silly. So, anyway, we’re going with plain ole’ Jamaican Patties.
I now pass on to you my Jamaican Patty recipe so that you too can delight in the wonders of hot patties whatever state you live in! Enjoy! (P.S. You will totally love me forever after you make these.)