Originated from the Quechua ch’arki, the term “jerk” refers to dried protein. In the Andes aka the highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, the protein in question was alpaca or cuy (guinea pig) meat.
In the Caribbean and in Afro-Caribbean culture, the term “jerk” generally refers to a spice blend used to season protein. On the Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica and Belize, you can sometimes find jerk tofu on the menu at local restaurants. From personal experience I can vouch for the existence of jerk-seasoned tofu cooked by locals as opposed to vegan expats in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica and in Punta Gorda, Belize.
Etymology of jerk:
jerk (v.2) as a method of preserving meat, 1707, American English, from American Spanish carquear, from charqui (see jerky). Related: Jerked.
jerky (n.) 1850, American English, from American Spanish charqui “jerked meat,” from Quechua (Inca) ch’arki “dried flesh.”
Spanish spellings include charque and charqui, from which the English word jerky derives.
Jerk Tofu with Cranberry-Pepper Relish
1 x 16oz package vacuum packed super-firm or extra-firm tofu *I used Nasoya, but in the past I’ve used Wildwood (I recommend using one of these brands for this recipe, if possible. I don’t have experience with other brands of vacuum-packed tofu). Tofu packed in water, or in any other sort of packaging other than vacuum-sealed, even when the label reads ‘super’ or ‘extra’ firm, has an entirely different texture and will not work for this recipe.
½ tsp curry powder (I used Trader Joe’s brand; ingredients: cumin, turmeric, coriander, chile pepper, mustard, cardamom, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, black pepper, and saffron)
½ tsp garam masala (I used Whole Foods’ brand; ingredients: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander)
½ tsp caraway seed
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 drops stevia liquid or 1/16 tsp pure stevia powder
2 Tbsp lime juice
1/8 tsp salt (I used sea salt, but if I’d had it on hand I would have used pink Himalayan salt; that said, regular table salt would work just fine).
½ cup water
for the cranberry-pepper relish
½ cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp red pepper flakes
In a jar, combine all ingredients except for the tofu. Seal the jar, and shake to combine. Set aside.
Slice tofu into slabs of approximately 1cm thickness. Spread evenly onto a cookie sheet. Shake the jar before pouring 1/2 the marinade over the tofu cutlets. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Turn on the broiler to low, and proceed to cook the tofu. After 5-7 minutes, remove the tofu from the oven, flip, and evenly disperse the remaining marinade. Return tofu to the oven for 5-7 more minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the tofu to absorb the residual heat for 5 minutes.
Serve immediately, or let cool for no less than 10 minutes before storing in the refrigerator. In a tightly-sealed container, these jerk tofu cutlets will last 1 week approx.