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