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Touring Tabasco: Thoughts From a Tabasco Noob

Ever since a really unfortunate habanero chili tasting experiment at the age of 6 during a tostada making night, I’ve avoided spicy foods. Childhood memories can be scarring and, as such, I’ve never tried Tabasco. So, when I got invited to a to a private virtual tour (complete with a Tabasco kit!) I wasn’t sure I’d be the right person for the job.

However, after my little virtual tour of Avery Island yesterday and a very cool, in-depth look at how the McIlhenney family makes Tabasco, I’m planning to dive in and add a dot to my eggs the next time I’m scramblin’.

That’s actually the suggested use. As Paul C.P. McIlhenney (President and CEO of McIlhenny Company) says “Start with a dot, then a dash, and work up to a splash.”

Paul McIlhenney is another reason I’m going to give Tabasco a try. Tabasco is a family business built by 4 generations. Back in the 1850’s Edmund McIlhenney married one of the ladies of the Avery family and, after the civil war, had to leave his job as a banker in New Orleans and moved with his wife to Avery Island.

During the war, Avery Island was a salt mine and grew sugar cane, but after the war, in an effort to make a living, Edmund McIlhenny took the advice of friends and made 350 bottles of his personal “pepper sauce” for sale.

Tabasco was born and it has been a family business ever since.

Overall, I really enjoyed the web presentation. Paul McIlhenney is quite charming. He’s a man after my own heart. A whiskey drinker, a foodie and you can tell he loves the business. I also learned quite a few things, but instead of trying to be all journalistic, I’ll bullet them as I noted them for your enjoyment. ::grin::

  • The aging barrels are cleaned out whiskey barrels. They ream out the charcoal and then use them over and over. Some of the aged white oak barrels are as old (or older) as I am!
  • The mash is 10 times hotter than the actual sauce and they tasted it during the presentation. Heh. Cleared their sinuses for sure!
  • Tabasco mash is aged 3 years before being made into sauce. The aging process came out of an accident since it used to be 2 months, but due to too many peppers, they sat longer and the aging process proved to be better.
  • The miltary & NASA use tabasco in MRE’s to enhance flavors.

That last point was something I took away for sure. The point isn’t to make the food hotter, but to enhance the flavor. Tabasco is also zero calorie, zero carb, and has less than 2% salt and it’s kosher. So, it’s pretty much a perfect food for everyone who’s watching what they eat.

There’s a lot more history and a lot more info, but here’s the wrap up I took away from it: Tabasco is crafted with thought, time and family tradition. There’s a definite commitment to quality.

There’s also a commitment to sustainability. Not only do they recycle barrels and byproducts of the production, but Avery Island itself is a wildlife refuge and a bird sanctuary.

Oh gosh, I’m rambling again.

Let me just wrap it up and say this. It was great, I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to getting my Tabasco tasting on. 😉

You can learn more about Tabasco at their website, Facebook, or follow @tabasco and @avery_island on Twitter.


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