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Cajun Ketchup

sunny 93 °F

A few years ago "60 Minutes" on CBS had a segment on the McIlhenny Family of Avery Island, LA. It showcased an American success story which began in 1868 and the company is still operated by the same family 5 generations later in 2018. The founder, the inventor, Edmund McIlhenny was a banker in New Orleans, born of Irish parents. As a young man he was climbing the ladder of banking, until the Civil War struck. The banks collapsed landing him without work. Following the end of the war in 1865 he conceived of the idea of making a spicy sauce to add to the poor bland diet of post-war New Orleans. He concocted a mash of chili peppers, vinegar, salt, and seasonings, all aged in white oak barrels. Through experimentation he learned that ageing the mash for 3 years was the secret. Edmund promoted and marketed locally & it was well received. Today, the tightly-held family company sells their 'Tabasco' brand Pepper Sauce in 166 countries with annual sales exceeding $200 million. The family's net worth exceeds $1 Billion. While touring the bottling section of the plant this morning I noticed that 174,000 bottles had been filled, all destined for Brazil.

Avery Island sits in the southwestern part of Louisiana in the Mississippi Delta. The soil is rich from the sediment of the river, and the vast fields are planted with various crops. The 'Island' really is a high point in the land and it sits on a rock salt dome. They use the salt in the Tabasco brand manufacturing process. The company also has greenhouses, botanists, horticulturists, which grow from seeds the particular type of pepper plant used for their sauce. The area, and the McIlhenny property has oil wells (which contributes to the overhead costs!). On the trip down from Lafayette to Avery Island there was a large presence of oil drilling-related companies along the highway. Oil production is large in southern Louisiana.

The tour included the Company Heritage room at the Visitor Center, the factory Mash/Fermenting/Ageing Room, the Bottling/Shipping Room, the Cooperage where the oak barrels are made, and the beautiful botanical Jungle Gardens. Food Tours with 6 local tasting stops are offered, and Cooking Classes with noted chefs featuring Southern cuisine, is another option, all using Tabasco seasoning, of course.

After a 'walk-thru' brouse in the Country Store where one can buy anything under the sun with the Tabasco name on it, it was lunch time. Next door sits the 1868 Restaurant. Offered are a variety of menu choices, all flavored with Tabasco seasoning. Being adverturous, I chose the sampler. It consisted of 3 cups on a tray; one of bean & sausage soup, one of crawfish over rice, and one of cajun jambalaya, all hotly seasoned but delicious. I took a Zantac when I arrived home!!!

The side trip was well worth the experience. The history, the beautiful setting of the factory, and the quaintness of it all made for a rich memory!!

Posted by dixter 13:49 Archived in USA Tagged cajun ketchup

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My type of lunch. Can't make it hot enough. Enjoy.

by kafera

So great to be reading about your travels. Thanks for keeping us all informed about your many adventures. Travel safe, Charlene

by cjott68

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