Ackee and Saltfish is the national dish of Jamaica, and is a very common and well-loved Jamaican breakfast. Several items such as sautéed tomatoes and onions go into the making of this colorful scramble, and of course at the heart of this breakfast are both ackee and saltfish. Ackee, which is a fruit with a slightly nutty and sweet flavor, provides a delicate contrast to saltfish, which is typically dried salted cod, but may be replaced with salted bacalao or pollock.
Ackee is a pear-shaped fruit that is found in warm climates. As the ackee fruit ripens, it turns from green to bright red to yellow-orange, and splits open to reveal three large, shiny black seeds, each partly surrounded by soft, white to yellow flesh. This national fruit of Jamaica was imported here from East Africa before 1725. Today, ackee fruit is canned and one of Jamaica’s major exports.
Ackee pods are ready to be picked from the tree once the pods start to open. This is due to the fact that the unopened pods are toxic and can lead to death. The fruits are then extracted from the open pods and the pods discarded. The fruits are then deseeded and cleaned. The fruits are now ready to be added to a pot of boiling water appropriate in size to the amount of ackee to be cooked. Salt may or may not be added to the water depending on the dish being prepared. For example, if ackee and saltfish is the desired meal, then salt is not added as the salt fish contains sufficient salt.
To prepare the dish, salt cod (salt fish should be soaked overnight to eliminate most of the salt) is sautéed with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes, and spices, such as black pepper and pimiento. It can be garnished with bacon and tomatoes, and is usually served as breakfast or dinner alongside breadfruit, hard dough bread, dumplings, fried plantain, or boiled green bananas. Ackee and saltfish can also be eaten with rice and peas or plain white rice. When seasonings (onion, escallion, thyme, garlic) and saltfish are combined with plain rice it is often called seasoned rice which is a one pot meal that is usually eaten on Fridays as an inexpensive meal for dinner.