Two sisters and Pickapeppa
No Jamaican pantry of any good repute is ever without an adequate stock of Pickapeppa sauce, and certainly not ours. We adore Pickapeppa; in particular, we love it as an accompaniment to a piping-hot Jamaican patty. Our love and respect for this 100 per cent authentic Jamaican sauce only grew after we had the pleasure and great privilege to visit the Pickapeppa factory, located in Shooters Hill, Mandeville. Established in 1921, the factory, still in its original location, is steeped in history. As we stepped through the door we were surrounded by a sense of how important it is to hold on to these gems and to learn the stories and honour the great minds behind these incredible Jamaican brands. Ultimately, they reveal to us aspects of ourselves and of our history that we may not be aware of and they give us something to be proud of. And so it is no surprise that our visit to the Pickapeppa factory impacted us so greatly. What stood out most, as it often has throughout this great food journey, is the unfaltering commitment to quality and values that is required to produce a great brand and how, with purity of intention and purpose, the simple can be elevated to the extraordinary. Everything about the Pickapeppa brand is evidence that tradition can indeed be carried forward in this technological age and that not all systems need be automated because technology simply cannot replace the human element.
Often described as the "Jamaican A-1," Pickapeppa sauce is made from a uniquely aromatic blend of ingredients and spices that adds sweetness and spice to any kind of meal. The amazing thing is that this blend is, and has always been, a complete secret. No single member of staff knows the exact combination of ingredients that makes up the unique spice mix - something that has kept the brand special, and quite frankly, sacred. The original Pickapeppa sauce was created in 1921 by Norman Nash at the age of 16, who, from a very young age, was said to have spent many hours in his mother's kitchen trying to perfect the blend that we know today. He eventually succeeded and it was there that the story of this great brand begins. After a number of years the business was purchased by the Lyn Kee Chow family and, almost 100 years later, the brand is still alive and is moving from strength to strength, continually adding new products that uphold the quality and taste standards of the original Pickapeppa. In addition to the original Pickapeppa sauce they now manufacture a Mango Chutney, Hot Sauce, Spicy Mango Sauce, Mango Ginger Sauce, and, the newest additions to the line which were revealed to us on our visit - the Banana Sauce, and Spicy Banana Sauce - which will make their debut this month.
We were honoured during our visit to the factory to observe certain parts of the original sauce- making process so we know for a fact that onions are cooked down in rows of copper pots over an open flame. We also know that after a few hours of constant stirring, hot peppers and the secret spice blend, along with vinegar (made right there in the factory, no doubt) and a bunch of stuff we never got to see are added to the base. Once complete the entire mixture is aged in oak barrels for a year (huge surprise here), but it was revealed to us that this is where the sauce gets its unique colour and flavour profile. Each batch then undergoes vigorous testing to ensure the right balance of flavour. And finally, the finished batches of aged sauce are bottled.
Our private tour of this amazing factory was once again a reminder to us of how beautiful and hopsitable Jamaican people can be as we were hosted by some of the most unassuming people we have ever met. These are the faces behind Pickapeppa. No wonder it's so good, we thought. Simply put, it was a journey we will never forget. We left with smiles on our faces and two very big boxes of Pickapeppa to boot!
Michelle and Suzanne Rousseau are epicurean adventurists and self-avowed Caribbean-ophiles. Their show, Two Sisters and a Meal, airs Sundays at 5:30 on TVJ with repeats on Tuesday at 9:30. Their first book Caribbean Potluck will be published in May by Kyle Books, UK and their web series Island Potluck can be viewed at twosistersandameal.com.
Sautéed Steak and Cheese
Yields: 4 sandwiches
For the beef marinade
1 bunch thyme
2 heads garlic, diced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/2 Scotch bonnet, seeded and diced
1 head escallion
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
For the sandwich assembly
8 slices Hardo bread
8 ounces beef tenderloin, cut into strips
2 medium onions, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces Cheddar cheese
4 teaspoons Pickapeppa Sauce* (see Caribbean Pantry)
4 tablespoons mayo
4 teaspoons mustard
4 teaspoons sorrel chutney
4 slices lettuce, optional
8 slices tomato, optional
Marinate beef for at least 15 minutes with all the listed ingredients. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium to high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt and allow to sauté till browned and wilted. Remove from pan. Add some more oil and heat; quick stir-fry the beef in batches so that it is nice and brown outside and tender inside. Remove from pan; do not overcook!
Toast Hardo bread with cheese on one side. Remove from oven and spread mustard and mayo on other side of bread. Top with beef and onions. Drizzle with Pickapeppa sauce, then add lettuce and tomatoes and cover with other slice of bread. Slice and serve.
Indian-Style Chicken Satays with Mango Ginger Dipping Sauce
1-pound chicken breast, cut into 2-3 inch cubes
2 lemons grated lemon (lime zest)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 stalks escallions sliced
1teaspoon turmeric powder
1 bunch cilantro chopped
1/2 Scotch bonnet, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water
Marinate chicken breast in lemon zest, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, cilantro, escallion, turmeric, Scotch bonnet. Soak bamboo skewers in water. Assemble like tandoori on skewers by threading 3 - 4 pieces of chicken on each skewer and hold in refrigerator till ready to cook. Grill on smoke top grill and serve with Spicy Mango Ginger Dipping Sauce.
Spicy Mango Ginger Dipping Sauce
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely diced scallion
1 tablespoon rice wine (or white) vinegar
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons Spicy Mango Ginger Pickapeppa Sauce
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 - 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and allow to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.