Ackee & Saltfish: Cooking with Jamaica’s Most Controversial Fruit

‘Rona has forced me re-evaluate the purpose of Adventures from Elle, the kind of content I want to produce and how I want to engage with my small but vibrant community going forward. I started this blog in December 2016 to inspire and show others, mainly locals, how to explore my beautiful island home of Jamaica on a budget. Traveling off-the-beaten-path in Jamaica and writing about those experiences has grown my love and appreciation of Jamaica and our culture, introduced me to a loving positive community of local, regional and international bloggers, given me some memorable experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, grown my confidence, nurtured my creativity and developed into a hobby I thoroughly enjoy.

Three years later, my life is different. I renewed my passport, and can afford to travel overseas perhaps annually or biennially like I did to Trinidad and Tobago last December. My blog has changed too– I have four blog posts about a country other than my own and I will continue to document my overseas adventures in the future here too. More than half of my readers are now non-Jamaican, so my blog now serves not only as inspiration and valuable travel information, but also as some of my readers’ only exposure to Jamaican culture. Thus, I have to create content which is not just applicable for Jamaicans. There are common everyday things my Jamaican readers may not care to read about but it will appeal to others. I want my blog to become a treasure trove of all things Jamaica, our natural beauty, food and way of life, in addition to the overseas experiences I will also share from time to time. I also wanted to share more of my life, my personal experiences and opinions on my blog– somehow I felt as if despite writing more often than I did in the past, I was doing less of that. I’m doing away with trying to stick with a schedule too. You’ll see me when you see me, but I’ll try to make that often. Most importantly, I don’t ever want blogging to feel like “work.”

Anyway, for those reasons, I’m here to talk about the Jamaican national dish of ackee and saltfish today. Last week a friend shared a picture of his lunch with me consisting of ackee and saltfish with boiled food (yam, dumplings etc.). The green eyed monster paid a visit as I stared at the picture for a few seconds longer than I cared to let him know. I realized I hadn’t had ackee in months, let alone ackee and saltfish. I don’t see any ackee trees or ackees selling in Mandeville, and it’s not on the menu of the restaurants I know. I longed for this delicious misunderstood fruit unique to Jamaica, I thought of how the saltfish I had in my fridge for a month would be the perfect accompaniment then shrugged and moved on with life. Then this happened!

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A coworker of mine went home last weekend to visit her family in rural St. Andrew. She came back with a huge bag of the stuff and made my day by offering me a little over a dozen. I couldn’t wait to come home to make my ackee and saltfish, and I decided I’d write a whole blog post to savour the memory and share this interesting controversial DELICIOUS fruit and dish with you all.

Ackee, a small misunderstood red pear-shaped fruit which splits when ripe to reveal 3 yellow arils with black shiny seeds.

The unripened fruit, its seeds and arils contain the hypoglycin A and B toxins. These two molecules are converted in the body to a potent poison which depletes blood glucose levels to the point of hypoglycemia, causing a condition called known in medical literature as “Jamaican vomiting sickness” and even coma and death. However, I’ve scarcely heard of anyone coming down with these symptoms or even dying from ackee poisoning. Why? Every Jamaican knows never to pick the unripened fruit and how to safely prepare the ripe ones.

Funny enough, we call ackee a fruit yet it requires cooking, and its nutrient composition is mostly fats. In fact, the US FDA lists ackee under fats and oils as a food group.

Nutritional value of ackee Content of a 100g serving of Ackee ...

It’s safe to say that ackee is easily the world’s most controversial fruit!

Here is my step-by-step pictorial on how to safely prepare ackee and Jamaica’s national dish. You need not fear the ackee!

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Ripe ackee fruit
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An ackee pod opened to expose the yellow arils and black seeds
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Ackee removed from the pod
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Gently twist and remove the poisonous seed
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This red thing inside the aril has to go. It’s poisonous too. Sometimes you may need a knife to help remove it but it’s usually easy to get out.
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The red thing removed
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Keep going…
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..Until you are on your last fruit. (Yes I sat on my kitchen floor doing this)
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Fill a large pot with water, and add your ackees to boil until soft but not mushy. I like adding some garlic cloves to the water for flavour.
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Discard the water in which you boiled the ackee. Do NOT boil any other food along with your ackee, and do not reuse the water.. It’s filled with whatever hypoglycin the ripe fruit had remaining.
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Simultaneously prepare your saltfish. I try to soak overnight then boil to remove most of the salt, then run cool water over it, scale, then flake and fillet.
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I didn’t soak my saltfish overnight, so I left the flaked saltfish in some water to remove the excess remaining salt until I was ready to make the ackee & saltfish.
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Here I have some onions caramelizing in soybean oil.
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Add your saltfish then your ackee and some seasonings e.g. thyme, and simmer for a few minutes

Ackee goes well with nearly everything! Disclaimer: We usually add more than onions and thyme but that’s all the seasoning I had at home, folks! It also calls for diced tomatoes, sweet pepper, scotch bonnet pepper and even black pepper, but I had to use cayenne pepper instead as a poor substitute.

Wrap Up

I hope you enjoyed this pictorial. I may do it again someday to continue sharing more of home with you. Thanks for stopping by, and stay safe!

‘Til next time, walk good! πŸ‘£

P.s. I’m only three clicks away from ONE THOUSAND WordPress subscribers so if you’re reading this and have a WordPress account, don’t forget to hit follow. πŸ™‚ Also, check out amazingackee.com for dozens of other ways to enjoy this lovely fruit.


Until the next blog, catch Elle on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

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Published by

Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. Also a budget travel blog, Adventures from Elle is written by Rochelle Knight, a junior doctor who began this blog as a student & wants to see the world, starting with her own country. She frequents off-the-beaten-path waterfalls, beaches and places with interesting history. Join her in Jamaica!

32 thoughts on “Ackee & Saltfish: Cooking with Jamaica’s Most Controversial Fruit

  1. Wow, I really did enjoy the read. Not many people go through the intricacies of preparing ackee.

    A secret to timing the boiling (scalding) of ackee is that raw ackee with always sink but cooked ackee will float. So with enough water in the pot and the ackee starts floating, that’s when it’s ready.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I had some ackee and saltfish yesterday with fried breadfruit, so I’ve decided not to hate you for this post. ☺️

    Also, you don’t “have to” do anything on here. Sure, consider your audience but don’t let it determine what you post. Remain true to what you love and make your changes for you. Authenticity goes a long way in the blogging world. πŸ™ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I’m happy to hear that.

      And you’re right. Perhaps I phrased that part wrongly. I enjoy writing everything I do, it’s just that I know people who originally followed my blog for one type of content may be disappointed and stop reading, e.g. this post which has nothing to do with local budget travel..the origanal purpose of my blog. But that’s okay. πŸ™‚ it’s natural for blogs to evolve with time and if it costs me readers, oh well.

      Like

    2. Well, that’s true. You always have people who want you to stick to one type of content, but growth is inevitable. I only did travel posts when I first started. I’m glad I had already started switching things up years ago or I’d be in a very difficult position right now! πŸ˜… I follow a few YouTube travel vlogs and they are struggling!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, this is an intimate post Rochelle, it’s outstanding how you’ve grown over the years and now a few shots to the big 1K. I know you hit it soon.
    However I’m curious, this meal looks delicious but what’s the worst that can happen if someone eats that poisonous red stuff? Does the person have a few seconds, minutes? I really don’t know why I’ll like to know this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ I appreciate it. And ha! What a question. It depends on how much one eats, but it can make a small child comatose in minutes and dead if immediate medical attention isn’t sought. Adults can verbalize that they’re feeling lightheaded, dizzy, sweating, cold, clammy or even vomit, and all these symptoms should prompt them to have something sweet to drink. In fact, as a child my mother would ensure I had something sweet to drink any time she gave me ackee to eat, just as a precaution. However, I’ve never had any symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) after eating ackee in my entire life.

      It’s a question we ask patients with hypoglycemia in Jamaica too (or their relatives since sometimes they’re brought in comatose) and only once in the hundreds of patients I’ve ever met with hypoglycemia have had a recent history of ackee consumption, and that may or may not had been responsible since the patient had other issues. She did quite fine though. πŸ™‚ I really can’t say I know or have heard of any ackee related deaths in Jamaica for decades. We all know the remedy and how to prevent it from happening in the 1st place. πŸ™‚

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  4. Looks good! I usually boil the ackee with scotch bonnet pepper and onions, hadn’t thought about adding garlic before. And then whenever there’s excess I’ll package it in serving sized portions and freeze for the future when it’s scarce and I get a craving. It generally holds up well, especially if it’s a firmer ackee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The texture is like scrambled eggs and the taste is sort of similar too. It has a lot of fat so it’s sort of creamy and soft and savoury. Ackee has a mild flavour but takes on the flavours of whatever spices you add to it too. I hope you get to try it one day. πŸ™‚ You’ll most likely only get the opportunity in Jamaica or if you meet any Jamaicans where you live.

      Like

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