Ackee And Saltfish The Jamaica National Dish
Ackee and Saltfish is Jamaica's national dish.
Just a little something about the ackee. This fruit was first brought to Jamaica from West Africa by the slaves as they were taken from their homes and brought into slavery. I believe that these people were not sure what they were going to eat and the ackee being a favorite of theirs, well then they just couldn't resist it. For more information about the ackee I will be publishing a hub about it in a few days and will permalink it here: "Ackee: History, Uses and Nutritional Value".
Being the first place to bear this fruit after it was brought from Africa. The ackee became the national fruit of Jamaica. This fruit is one of those fruits that are eaten like a vegetable since in most cases you have to cook it first. Of course there are some people who eat it raw but still they have to eat it as a part of a meal.
The ackee tree in Jamaica bears fruit about two to three times per year. It is not fair to say the ackee is seasonal, for when one tree has no ackees the other tree might. Meaning that, when my area has no ackees you can always get them elsewhere.
Ackees are mostly sold in the market or on the street-side by vendors. They are counted by each pod which bears three seeds. Each pod is counted to the dozen and that's how they are sold. A dozen ackees can be sold for anywhere between JA$100 - $300.
- 6 cups or 2 1/2 to 3 lbs uncooked ackees, in Jamaica this would be the equivalent to about 3 dozen ackees. See above for explanation.
- 6 oz salted codfish, known only as saltfish in Jamaica
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 1 stalk scallion, chopped
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper
- 6 tsbps vegetable oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- ground black pepper
- 6 pimento seeds
What to serve with your ackee and saltfish
Ackee and salfish is such a diverse dish that it goes well with any carb. If you aren't sure, here are my suggestions:
- Roast breadfruit is the most popular ackee saltfish combination
- Fried dumplings served with this dish is probably the most popular Jamaican breakfast yet!
- Boiled banana, yams and boiled dumplings are a popular Jamaican dinner combo
- Many people like ackee and plain white rice, very nice!
- Left over Sunday rice and peas goes extremely well with ackee and saltfish
- Need a quick snack or light breakfast? Try ackee and saltfish with bread.
As you can see I have named all the most popular Jamaica starches to have with your ackee and saltfish. Now please enjoy!
- When you get your ackees if they still have their black seeds in please remove them. The easiest and best way to do this is use a small knife and cut around the seed about 1/16 of an inch. See photo. You may also just pluck the seeds out but you still need to remove that area where the seed was attached to the flesh.
- Your three dozen ackees should yield you around 2 1/2 to 3 lbs or 6 cups after the seeds have been removed.
- Pour your 8 cups of water in a pot and add whole scotch bonnet and pimento seed.
- Rinse the excess salt from the cod fish and add to pot. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Let codfish boil for about 5 minutes then add ackees, seeds removed and cleaned.
- Cover and bring to a boil again. Cook ackees until tender.
- Another thing you need to know is that there are different specie/breed of ackees so the cooking times may differ. You need to check you ackees after ten minutes for tenderness.
- After the first 10 minutes keep checking after every 5 minutes. It should take no longer tha 30 minutes to cook and 30 minutes is very long for cooking ackees.
- When ackee is cooked, remove from flames and drain in a colander.
- Remove codfish and run under cold water until cool enough to handle.
- Remove scale from codfish and rinse. Remove all bones if possible then break up salt fish into moderately small pieces. The pieces can be as small or large as you like but I prefer a size that is about 1/2 a bite size. See photo.
- Using the same pot (to reduce cleanup and the ackee just taste better in the same pot to me...lol), heat oil on medium.
- When oil is hot add salt fish and let fry for three minutes then add onion, garlic and scallion. Stir and fry until fragrant.
- Add your ackees and stir. Note that the ackees wont remain whole after this. Don't worry about it that's the way it is supposed to be. There is only one type of ackee that doesn't break up when cooking and it's not a very popular ackee.
- Add a couple pinches of black pepper and stir. Turn flames down and cover. Let ackee steam for three minutes to absord all the flavours.
- Remove from heat and serve.
Ackee and Saltfish Faux Pas - NO-NOs
There are different ways that people make ackee and saltfish that will definitely give the impression to a newbie eating it, that it's not tasty at all. I have seen this before. I have had people tell me that they don't like the dish, then I make it and they are hooked, I discovered a few things that people do with the dish that takes away the great flavour. See list:
- Don't boil the ackee with thyme or don't use thyme at all. Thyme has a very strong flavour and will take away the natural ackee flavour instead of enhancing it. Remember that ackee is a fruit and needs simple ingredients to enhance it.
- Don't use tomatoes in your ackees. If you must have tomatoes add them as a complement and not as a part of the dish. Definitely do not cook the tomatoes with the ackee. The acid from the tomatoes will definitely detract from the real flavor.
- To get a great flavor without overpowering your dish, boil the ackee with the pepper instead of when frying it up.
- If you must use ackee from the can, drain properly by letting it sit in the colander for at least half hour. If you have a spray nozzle at the sink, spray a little hot water over it (not too much) and let drain thoroughly. This will help reduce some of the tin flavor that canned foods normally have.
- Don't add sweet peppers to your ackee. Even though it looks good, sweet pepper sweat and will cause the ackee to gather water...we don't want ackee gravy. Another reason to leave out this vege is because they have a sweet flavour and takes away from the natural flavour of the ackee and saltfish.
- You can leave off the onion and use more scallion/green onion or spring onions. Spring onions are the ideal flavor for the ackees. If you must use onions, do so sparingly for onions are sweet.
- Never add powder seasoning to your ackee and saltfish dish, I can't describe how insipid that tastes.
- The oil you use must complement your dish and you should either use coconut oil or vegetable oil. Olive oil's flavor is too strong for this dish.
- Don't use butter with your ackee. I know in countries this is the norm but trust me, you can't get a better flavor than with the coconut or vegetable oil.
- Don't over-cook or under-cook the ackee. Make sure the ackee is tender but not raw when it's done.