Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Think about Jamaican food, and you probably think about jerk chicken.
It’s unique spicy flavor that comes from a rub or marinade, and from a special kind of wood that’s only being imported by one Twin Cities man.
It’s Pimento wood.
“Frankly its all about smoke,” said Gary Feblowitz is the founder of Exotic Wood Chips. “What mesquite is to Tex-Mex, Pimento wood is to jerk cooking.”
He’s the only importer of Pimento wood directly from Jamaica.
The wood comes from the Jamaican allspice tree. Feblowitz turns it into Pimento wood chips, chunks, flakes, and planks.
“I’ve traveled the world … and there’s something about the food in Jamaica I became obsessed with,” he said.
For people who love barbecue, the sauce or the marinade is kind of the sideshow. The real flavor comes from the smoke you get with low heat and slow cooking.
“The smoke is so powerful you can use it on any grill,” he said.
You can put Pimento wood in foil on a gas grill to generate the smoky flavor, too. Or, put Pimento leaves in a pan of water.
“That way they boil, and keeps everything moist while it’s cooking,” he said.
The Jamaican allspice is unique because it has a more clove-heavy flavor — less cinnamon. And the heat of the marinade comes from the Scotch bonnet pepper.
Feblowitz said he only brings in Pimento wood trees that are too old to make fruit, or trees damaged by storms. And he plants three trees for every tree he takes.
They cook with the wood at Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque in Stillwater, and you can get it at Kitchen Window, or at Gary’s website.