TABASCO Tongues

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My husband and I caught the tail-end of a 60 Minutes segment that featured a trip to the TABASCO Factory in Louisiana. What we heard was that this is the only place in the world where TABASCO sauce is manufactured and we were intrigued enough to think that we needed to make a visit there, too.

As it turns out, the TABASCO Factory is only a 2-1/2 hour drive from New Orleans. Located on Avery Island, it is actually a small facility of 200 salaried employees who churn out 400,000 bottles a day to ship to 183 countries in the world. We tend to use the term ‘tabasco sauce’ for any hot pepper sauce, but TABASCO sauce is only manufactured in one spot in the world. The peppers they use are grown from seeds they send out to spots in Central and South America, but the manufacturing and bottling is all done in Louisiana.

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The free factory tour is a little disappointing in itself. There are a few display cases to peruse before you file into a screening room and watch a 20-minute film on the history of the McIlhenny family and the origin of the TABASCO brand. Once the film is over, you walk down a corridor where you can look through the glass window at the factory floor and see bottles being filled by machine. But that only takes about 5 minutes and the whole thing is done. Not worth a 2-1/2 hour drive, which is too bad, because the process is pretty interesting.

The peppers are harvested when they match the hue of the “petit baton rouge.” They are then mashed and stored in old barrels from the Jack Daniels’ distillery for 3 years. The barrels of mash are covered with a thick layer of salt to protect it from any infestation or impurities and the salt comes straight from Avery Island, too, which is built on a salt dome and is therefore a ‘hill’ along the flat coastal plains of Louisiana.

It takes 3 years before the barrel is opened and vinegar is added. Like a fine wine, TABASCO sauce cannot be rushed. But the tourists can be, and we all left the factory viewing area to head to the Country Store where we could sample all types of pepper sauces, jalapeno pepper-flavored ice cream, and a variety of other samples. My husband and I didn’t try too many. We were about to embark on a TABASCO Food Tour, so we didn’t want to singe our tastebuds too quickly. We did, however, buy a bag of TABASCO-tinged wood chips from one of the old dismantled barrels. We cooked out a week later at home and could taste the smoky hints of it on our grilled tomatoes and corn.

Coming up next, I’ll write about the Food Tour. But first, I’d love to know what foods you’d add TABASCO to? Does pepper-flavored ice cream sound good to you?

23 responses to “TABASCO Tongues

  1. I saw that segment too and found it to be very interesting. Good to know that the tour isn’t worth visiting. Looking forward to hearing about your the Food Tour though.

  2. I’m not a big Tabasco person but I love the label and graphics. It’s so great. I’d love to know the history behind that if it’s interesting.

  3. Hot is part of my world. 🙂 And I’ve certainly consumed my share of Tobasco sauce over the years. I prefer using cayenne pepper and salsa now days, however. –Curt

  4. My mother loves spicy food. When I was younger, I used to be super embarassed when we were eating out and she found the food too bland … because she would whip a miniature bottle of Tabasco sauce out of her handbag and apply it liberally to her dish!!

  5. I think Tabasco is just not my type of spicy since I always found it too salty for my liking. Sriracha however, is another story. The process of making Tabasco is very interesting though, had no idea it took so long to make!

  6. We’re big hot sauce fans, and we put it on everything. Eggs, baked potatoes, Asian food…you name it! We were big fans of Louisiana hot sauce, but now we use Aardvark.

  7. I was born in Lake Charles, La When we were kids in school, they took us there for a school trip. But not all people in Louisiana are Tabasco sauce lovers, probably because so many make their own. I always look at the first ingredients….if it start with Vinegar I don’t like it. My wife loves it, but she is from up north where they love vinegar so much, they put it on their chips. I have to love hot sauce, my mother is half Cajun and half Mexican….only women I know that puts Tabasco sauce on stuffed Jalapeno peppers. But I prefer the first ingredients to be peppers….like Texas Pete. But, hey….everyone has it’s taste!

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