Friday, August 29, 2014

Hot Sauce, A Louisiana Tradition, 1807 - Part 3

Blogger's Note: There are many choices for a Southern palate when it comes to hot sauce in Louisiana.  Here is a tribute to some old favorites, and to the surprising new trends in food condiments that are cropping up in all of the high-demand kitchens in the Crescent City.  Enjoy!

From the Crystal Hot Sauce website:

"Great flavors were born on Tchoupitoulas Street back in 1923. The story of Louisiana’s favorite hot sauce begins in the early 1920s, when Alvin Baumer borrowed some cash from his future father-in-law to purchase 'Mill’s Fruit Products,' a small sno-ball syrup company in New Orleans (sno-balls are a summer treat made with shaved ice). Included in the sale was a recipe for a hot sauce made with cayenne peppers, called Crystal Pure Louisiana Hot Sauce.

In the 1940s, the business, renamed Baumer Foods, Inc., expanded rapidly as people everywhere discovered the unique flavor of Crystal. The boom in business prompted a move to a larger plant on Tulane Avenue in Mid City. At this location, preserves and jellies were manufactured for the U.S. war effort, which American soldiers enjoyed as part of troop-issued combat rations. The building's iconic neon sign became, and still is, a famous New Orleans landmark.

And then…Katrina. On August 29, 2005, the devastating storm roared ashore and weakened the city’s levee system, causing breaches which allowed billions of gallons of water to inundate the city and the Mid City neighborhood. The Baumer Foods, Inc. building was flooded and destroyed, along with the iconic sign, but the great flavor survived and our spirit and determination to recover along with the rest of the city flourished.

The family-owned business resumed operations after relocating the manufacturing facilities upriver to Reserve, Louisiana, which is 9 feet above sea level. The iconic sign was replicated and placed atop a new apartment building, built on the same site as the old factory.

Today, Baumer Foods, Inc. is still family-owned and run by Alvin Jr., and has become not only a Louisiana institution, but one of the fastest growing condiment manufacturers in the country. More than 4.5 million gallons of Crystal Hot Sauce are shipped to destinations in the U.S. and across the globe."

Continue Article: | History of Hot Sauce - Part 1 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 2 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 4 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 5

Hot Sauce, A Louisiana Tradition, 1807 - Part 2

Blogger's Note: McIlhenny's initial success with Tabasco also spawned a raft of imitators particularly in the roaring 1920s including Trappey's Hot Sauce (made by B.F. Trappey, an ex-McIlhenny employee) as well as Crystal Hot Sauce.

From Wikipedia entry Trappey's Hot Sauce:

"Trappey's is one of the oldest hot sauce brands in the United States. It is produced by the New Iberia, Louisiana-based company Trappey's Fine Foods, Inc. Trappey's is by B&G Foods. The company makes Red Devil Cayenne Pepper Sauce, Bull Louisiana Hot Sauce, Indi-Pep Pepper Sauce, Chef Magic JalapeƱo Sauce and pickled jalapeƱos.

The company was founded in 1898, when Louisiana entrepreneur (and former McIlhenny Company employee) B.F. Trappey grew tabasco chilies from Avery Island seed.

B.F. Trappey founded the company B.F. Trappey and Sons and, with the help of his ten sons and one daughter, began producing his own sauce, which he called 'Tabasco.' The McIlhenny family, makers of Tabasco brand sauce eventually responded to this challenge and a several decades-long feud by receiving a trademark for their Tabasco brand in 1906. Afterwards Trappey resorted to the less specific 'Louisiana Hot Sauce.'

Trappey's is called Louisiana-style as it is no longer produced in Louisiana, but imported from Colombia.  With a Scoville rating of 1,200 to 1,600.  Trappey's Louisiana Hot Sauce is noticeably milder than some other Louisiana-style sauces."

Continue Article: | History of Hot Sauce - Part 1 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 3 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 4 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 5 |  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Angel Oak, John's Island, South Carolina, 2014

Blogger's Note: An appreciation of ancient trees comes with the territory working at Albany Woodworks.  We have found a few, but this one really takes the cake.  A recent trip by a staff member to Charleston, South Carolina tipped us off to its grand stature, and kindly submitted pictures of the visit. 

From the Angel Oak Tree website:
"Reportedly the oldest thing -- living or man-made -- east of the Rockies, Angel Oak is a live oak tree aged approximately 1,500 years. Some locals simply call it The Tree. It stands in a wooded area along Bohicket Road of John's Island outside Charleston, South Carolina.

Angel Oak is a live oak. It is native to the low country and is not very tall but has a wide spread canopy. Lumber from the live oak forests in the sea islands was highly valued for shipbuilding in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Angel Oak stands on part of Abraham Waight's 1717 land grant.

The Tree stands in an obscure wooded area of John's Island, some 12 miles beyond the Ashley River. The Tree is huge, and it is ancient. Estimates of its age run as high as 1,500 years.  The Angel Oak is thought to be one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi River. Acorns from the Angel Oak have grown to produce authentic direct-offspring trees. Live oaks generally grow out and not up, but the Angel Oak has had plenty of time to do both, standing 65 ft high and with a canopy providing 17,000 square feet of shade. Its limbs, the size of tree trunks themselves, are so large and heavy that some of them rest on the ground.  

Some even drop underground for a few feet and then come back up, a feature common to only the very oldest live oaks. It has survived countless hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and human interference, so there's a good chance it will still be there waiting for you."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hot Sauce, A Louisiana Tradition, 1807 - Part 1

Blogger's Note: There are many choices for a Southern palate when it comes to hot sauce in Louisiana.  Here is a tribute to some old favorites, and to the surprising new trends in food condiments that are cropping up in all of the high-demand kitchens in the Crescent City.  Enjoy!

"Humans have used chili peppers and other hot spices for thousands of years. Inhabitants of Mexico, Central America and South America had chili peppers more than 6,000 years ago. Within decades of contact with Spain and Portugal in the 16th century, the American plant was carried across Europe and into Africa and Asia, and altered through selective breeding. 

One of the first commercially available bottled hot sauces appeared in 1807 in Massachusetts.  However, of the early brands in the 1800s, few survive to this day. Tabasco sauce is the earliest recognizable brand in the hot sauce industry, appearing in 1868 and becoming synonymous with the term hot sauce."

From the Tabasco website:

"According to family tradition, TABASCO® brand Original Red Sauce was created in the mid to late 1860s by Edmund McIlhenny. A food lover and avid gardener, McIlhenny was given seeds of Capsicum frutescens peppers that had come from Mexico or Central America. On Avery Island in South Louisiana, he sowed the seeds, nurtured the plants and delighted in the spicy flavor of the peppers they bore.

The diet of the Reconstruction South was bland and monotonous, especially by Louisiana standards. So Edmund McIlhenny decided to create a pepper sauce to give the food some spice and flavor — some excitement. Selecting and crushing the reddest peppers from his plants, he mixed them with Avery Island salt and aged this 'mash' for 30 days in crockery jars and barrels. McIlhenny then blended the mash with French white wine vinegar and aged the mixture for at least another 30 days. After straining it, he transferred the sauce to small cologne-type bottles with sprinkler fitments, which he then corked and sealed in green wax. 

'That Famous Sauce Mr. McIlhenny Makes' proved so popular with family and friends that McIlhenny, previously a banker, decided to embark on a new business venture by marketing his pepper sauce. He grew his first commercial pepper crop in 1868. The next year, he sent out 658 bottles of sauce at one dollar apiece wholesale to grocers around the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans. He labeled it 'Tabasco,' a word of Mexican Indian origin believed to mean 'place where the soil is humid' or 'place of the coral or oyster shell.' McIlhenny secured a patent in 1870, and TABASCO® Sauce began its journey to set the culinary world on fire. Sales grew, and by the late 1870s, he sold his sauce throughout the U.S. and even in England. 

Over 140 years later, TABASCO® Sauce is made much the same way except now the aging process for the mash is longer – up to three years in white oak barrels – and the vinegar is high-quality distilled vinegar. Labeled in 22 languages and dialects, sold in over 165 countries and territories, added to soldiers’ rations and put on restaurant tables around the globe, it is the most famous, most preferred pepper sauce in the world. 

TABASCO® Sauce is still made on Avery Island, Louisiana, to this day. In fact, about half of the company’s 200 employees actually live on Avery Island, with many of their parents and grandparents having worked and lived there as well. Anthony 'Tony' Simmons, the current Chairman of the Board and CEO, is the seventh McIlhenny in a chain of direct descendants who have strived to preserve the legacy and traditions of the company’s creator."

Continue Article: | History of Hot Sauce - Part 2 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 3 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 4 | History of Hot Sauce - Part 5

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#sharkweek: Bull Sharks Take To Louisiana's Cypress Swamps @ Atchafalaya Basin

Blogger's Note: To help celebrate Shark Week, we found some shark stories a little closer to home.  Not for the faint of heart.  Enjoy!

(Above): A sighting of a shark fin was recently captured off of Grand Isle in Southern Louisiana.

From the article Bull sharks take to Louisiana swamp By Jim Shannon

"HENDERSON, LA (WAFB) - Bass, catfish, and perch make for a great fish fry down on the bayou, but lately, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has found sharks in inland waters of the Atchafalaya Basin Swamp. 

Most people have a preconceived notion that sharks are found in the ocean. While that's certainly true, sharks are also being found among the beautiful cypress trees in the waters of the Atchafalaya. 'Well, I guess this is a swamp, shark that lives in the swamp,' said Mike Walker with Wildlife and Fisheries. 'You could call it a swamp shark.'

Walker has pictures of bull sharks that were caught among the inland waters in Louisiana. He says sharks have likely been around these parts for decades. However, they're noticing them more because they now take huge samples of species in different waterways in Louisiana and that's turning up sharks. It's no surprise for long time Atchafalaya swamp tour guide Curtis Allemond. 'Oh, I used to catch 'em up on the river when the river's low, yeah (laughs),' he said when asked if he had ever seen any sharks in the swamp.

(Above): This footage from a July 2010 news report shows that sharks have been in the Atchafalaya Basin for quite some time.

The bull shark is particularly troubling for Walker, in part due to their natural threatening nature. 'They're fairly aggressive sharks. They're probably responsible for the majority of the attacks on human beings.' Walker says there are no known inland shark attacks in Louisiana. The bull sharks are not just hanging around the bayous and swamps. They have been caught some 900 miles up the Mississippi River.

'They have been captured in St. Louis. They have traveled 2500 miles up the Amazon. They have some mechanism in their make-up that allows them to process freshwater and not require high salinity to live.'  It may seem hard to believe that in the deep swamp of Louisiana bull sharks, one of the most dangerous species of shark, are swimming in the swamp."

We Are Groot: The Hidden Environmental Message In Guardians Of The Galaxy

Blogger's Note:  This blogger recently went to see the much anticipated summer film, Guardians of the Galaxy, at the theater a few weeks ago.  Touched by the simple message of togetherness from the leafy gargantuan 'Groot,' who gives his all with out being asked, stating the phrase "We are Groot." as the answer.  One must ask how this reflects on our relationship with nature and it's all encompassing provisions for humans, without questioning our need for what the Earth provides us.  This article is carefully written so as to not give away any major plot spoilers.  Enjoy!

Groot is introduced to the viewer with his more vocal friend and business partner Rocket Raccoon, as a typical other-worldly action hero.  He has a limited vocabulary, which is often translated by his companion Rocket, but more often than not is understood through his inflection.  It is not until the undoubtedly, at least in their own minds, more capable members of the rag-tag group that comprise the Guardians hit a stumbling block that Groot's value to the team is realized.

He doesn't carry a flashy gun, wear the uniform, or buy-in to other such standard fare for action figures, he is the ultimate weapon because of his effect on the morale of his team.  One can't help but draw comparisons to how necessary the resources of nature are often undervalued, but ultimately necessary to the morale of humans.

With his large brown eyes, we sense the deep connection he feels for the world around him, especially towards his friends, the Guardians.  All of the humanesque members of the Guardians subscribe the the very American concept of the "Me first" mentality, whereas Groot is the first to put the team before himself, and give traction to the ability of the other Guardians to do the same.

Early on, he is seen as relatively useless by the other Guardians, but he isn't much of a talker, so he is tolerated.  As with nature, he is often overlooked, his beauty seen as a waste of resources to human eyes.  It is in the later moments of the film that really bring together the bond between humans and nature, and leaves the question, what are we without each other?  Or, so simply said by the anamorphic tree himself, "We Are Groot."

Definitely not standard action movie fare, Guardians of the Galaxy gives the viewer the benefit of the doubt to connect the dots and earn our hard-won appreciation for Groot, and therefore our connection to nature.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Honey Island Swamp Named Most Pristine Swampland Habitat In US - Slidell, Louisiana

From the Pearl River Eco-Tours website:

"Just a short drive from New Orleans, Louisiana are many acres of swamp land deep in the Honey Island Swamp that are said to be as uncorrupted, primitive, and untouched by man as anywhere in America. It is for this very reason that some say it may actually be possible for a creature to live in these parts and go unnoticed by humans…well almost unnoticed.

Legends abound in the swamp. There are legends about pirates such as Jean Lafitte, Pierre Remaux and many more who supposedly hid buried treasures in these swamps. There legends about ghosts of native American Indians that still roam these swamps at night and about mysterious green lights flickering at night deep in the swamps and lead travelers into the wilderness where they never return, but nothing has seemed to have captured the attention of man like that of the legend of the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

Honey Island Swamp Monster

The first documented sighting of the creature took place in early August of 1963. Harlan Ford, a retired air traffic controller, and his friend Ray Mills came home from the swamp with an incredible story. The pair of veteran hunters claimed that while out in the swamps they came across a large creature standing over the body of a dead boar.

Harlan described the creature as being covered in dingy grey hair, with longer hair hanging from its head. The two estimated the creature weighed close to 400 pounds and stood about 7 feet tall. The creature’s enormous size and hair was frightening enough, but the amber colored eyes and horrible stench that reeked from the creature were the two things that stuck in Harlan and Ray’s mind from this unbelievable encounter.

While news of this story spread like wildfire, the locals knew that stories of this ferocious creature go back hundreds of years. The Native Americans of the area called the creature Letiche, and described it as meat eating, human-like creature that lived in the water and on the land. The Indians from this area believed that the swamp monster was once an abandoned child who was raised by alligators in the deep dark regions of the swamp. Cajuns called the creature Loup Carou, which some say means werewolf.

Some researchers believe that the Honey Island Swamp Monster is related to Bigfoot. While the body size and description is very similar, the tracks found in and around Honey Island Swamp do not resemble tracks collected in the Pacific North West. They are 4 and sometimes 3 toed, much like tracks discovered in southeastern Texas and parts of Florida."