Having a difficult time finding Pimento wood in Canada? Us too!
Pimento wood (from the Pimenta dioica plant) is used throughout the Caribbean to give Jerk its authentic smokiness. The fruit of this tree is the Allspice berry and it’s this spice that provides jerk marinades their signature aroma. These berries are picked before ripening and then dried to preserve their robust flavour. While ground allspice is often used in jerk seasoning, the whole allspice can be used as a great alternative to pimento wood in smoking.
The reason it has been so difficult to find pimento wood lately is because the Pimenta dioica, which is endemic to the island nation of Jamaica, has been reclassified as a species at risk of extinction due to unsustainable harvesting practices. Increased popularity of Caribbean cuisine, particularly Jerk Chicken, has led to rampant deforestation of the pimento trees and reduced tree population. To remedy this, the Jamaican government has enacted measures to limit export and harvesting of pimento trees to allow crop levels to rebound. This puts cooks in a position where we are forced to get creative.
Food plays such a big role in any culture, and when one of your chief ingredients is lost, those traditions go with it. To preserve the cuisine, and the culture, it is important to maintain sustainable practices in food preparation.
Since it’s been so difficult to get pimento wood in Toronto, we have found a tasty, sustainable and cost-effective solution--allspice. By using the dried fruit of the pimento tree, you are able to recreate much of the aromas and tastes you get from smoking the wood. Here's how:
Soak 100g of whole allspice in water for at least 30 minutes and drain. Place the allspice in a smoker box with soaked hickory wood chips ( or if you want a milder flavour, use alder). Add the smoker box to your gas or charcoal grill.
You don’t want to put your food directly over the smoking wood and allspice. It could lead to oversmoking the food which will give an acrid taste that is undesirable. It's best when the smoke is allowed to find its own way to the meat, it strikes the right balance of flavour.