Saturday, December 28, 2013

Avery Island, Louisiana . . . Home of Tabasco Sauce

My new friend, Rick, from North Carolina, and I took a drive to Avery Island, Louisiana, the home of Tabasco Pepper Sauce.  It was a rather dreary and rainy day.  We'd wanted to head out earlier but waited in hopes that the weather would clear up.  No such luck so we took Petunia out for the drive of about 25 miles.  Avery Island is actually a salt dome that's located in Iberia Parish (County), about three miles inland from Vermillion Bay, which in turn opens onto the Gulf of Mexico.

The island was named after the Avery family, who settled there in the 1830s.  But long before the Avery family arrived, American Indians had found that the islands beautiful flora grew over a precious natural resource - a salt dome.  the Indians boiled the briny water, extracted the salt and used it for trade as far away as Texas, Arkansas and Ohio.
Before the Civil War, Edmund McIlhenny joined the Avery family when he married an Avery daughter.  In 1868 he founded the McIlhenny Company, and began manufacturing Tabasco brand pepper sauce.
He patented his sauce recipe in 1870 and Tabasco sauce has been made using the same recipe and process continually since that time.  The McIlhenny family has owned the company since its inception; however, in 2013 the presidency of the company, though still in the family, was assumed by a cousin, Tony Simmons.  He runs the company in the same hands-on fashion the McIlhennys started over 170 years.
There's a $1 per car entrance to the island fee; however, the plant tour and use of the grounds are free.  There are a few residential buildings on the island; I suspect they may be used by employees of the company/  As of 2010 there were about 200 employees.

*Click on the photos to enlarge
We parked next to the Tabasco Country Store, but wanted to visit the plant before heading in to make any purchases!

Here's Rick before we went in for the plant tour with about 20 other visitors
Most of the buildings and walkways are brick.  It was cold and drizzly - we didn't spend 
lots of outdoor time.  

There's a plaque on the front of the plant that confused us when we read it.  I checked online and found that in 2009, McIlhenny became one of just a few U.S. companies to receive a "royal warrant of appointment" that certifies the company as a supplier to Queen Elizabeth II.  McIlhenny is one of about 850 companies around the globe to have been officially designated as a supplier to the queen by such warrants!

Our welcome as we entered the plant
We waited for only a few minutes and then were told the history of the company and were shown a film about the cultivation of the peppers, the process of manufacturing and bottling.  The were not in operation during our visit.  They bottle Monday through Thursday - 70,000 bottles per day
Edmund McIlhenny's 1868 recipe has not changed; he mixed up his own personal pepper sauce with only three ingredients:  fully aged red peppers, salt from Avery Island, and high-quality distilled vinegar.  Many competitors have tried but none has surpassed the original recipe.
Why is it so popular the world over?  The say it's simple:  put it on any food you like, and it'll make you like it more!

Since they weren't bottling today the counter had nothing to count.

After traveling through the plant we went into a small museum of the company's history and saw this demonstration vat in operation.  Essentially, the peppers are picked at the precisely right moment and taken into the plant where they're washed, weighed and placed in used whisky barrels (that have been charred to remove traces of whisky) mixed with salt from their own mines, covered with a wooden top that has holes drilled in it.  Then they cover the wooden top of the barrel with a thick layer of the same salt and let it 'age,' undisturbed for 3 years.  After that fermentation the mash is poured into the vat (above), vinegar is added and the whole is stirred during a 28-day period when it's then ready to be bottled.
Although all the peppers were originally grown right here on Avery Island, only about 30% are grown here now; these plants are mainly used for seed production.  The remaining 70% of the growing process is on pepper farms in Honduras, Costa Rica and Venezuela where the tropical climate makes it possible to harvest all year long.

Here's Rick trying two different flavors of Tabasco ice cream.  We both liked the flavor of Raspberry Chipoltle ice cream.  The Jalapeño ice cream wasn't as pleasant!
I bought a couple of post cards and some Raspberry Chipoltle Tabasco Sauce for my son and son-in-law - my family's champion hot sauce men!!

After our visit to learn all about Tabasco, we went into New Iberia, LA for a nice lunch.  We've both had lots of Cajun food and were looking for something a little different.  Well, how's this?  BoJangles Sushi?
We had shrimp tempura and gyoza - now that was interesting!  and delicious!


  1. Neither Joe nor I do Tabasco but it looks like a wonderful place to visit and it sounds like you had a fun time.

    1. I've really only used it in recipes; now I want to try it on plain food. I'm not a super hot spicy food freak, but we'll see. It was fun to visit.

  2. We had fun at the Tabasco Factory a few years ago, and thought that the jalapeno ice cream was different. Wouldn't buy a gallon of it though!

    1. Hi Kevin: I wasn't even going to try the jalapeño flavor but found it okay. I'd say the raspberry chipotle flavor was even pretty nice. If I were at home I might consider serving it at a dinner party as a conversation booster!

  3. What fun ... I haven't been there ... glad to see you post about it. Been all around it ... just never went to the Factory ... dunno why

    1. It's interesting and I'm wanting to try the Raspberry Chipotle Tabasco sauce I bought.

  4. I have been there several times.
    Thanks for bring back great memories for me.I
    like the way the planters know when to pick the peppers
    they have a stick with different shades of red on them
    at the reddest color then they pick.

    1. Yes, I thought that stick idea was great; however, I'll bet those employees know exactly the right color without using the stick! I enjoyed visiting and would even go back. For one thing it was raining very hard and we didn't go to the gardens/jungle.

  5. Mary-Pat,

    Good chance we will be driving along I-10 in your area in a couple of weeks. If we stop, can't be for too long, lots to do in Florida before we leave in early May for Alaska. Will know more in about a week or so. --Dave (

    1. Hey that's great. We could at least have a meal or coffee or?

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