TOBASCO SAUCE A HOT COMMODITY

THERE ‘S AN OLD JOKE ABOUT TABASCO: EVERYBODY HAS A BOTTLE IN THEIR CUPBOARD, AND IT’S STILL THE SAME BOTTLE. BUT TABASCO NEVER LASTS THAT LONG IN LOUISIANA. THOUGH SOME FOLKS SWEAR BY CRYSTAL HOT SAUCE, AND BOTTLES OF “SLAP YA MAMA” AND “BAYOU BUTT BURNER” SHOW UP AT EVERY CORNER GROCERY. TABASCO IS IN A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN. IN THE 1860’S, EDMUND MCLLHENNY, A BANKER, KEEN GARDENER, AND EARLY FOODIE, PLANTED SEEDS OF MEXICAN OR CENTRAL AMERICAN CAPSICUM FRUTESCENS, VARIETY TABASCO, AT HIS HOME ON AVERY ISLAND, SOUTHWEST OF NEW ORLEANS.

THIS PETITE BUT PUNCHY PEPPER IS A CAYENNE-TYPE CHILE WITH A SCOVILLE UNIT HEAT RANGE OF FROM 30,000 TO 50, 000, JUST BELOW THAT OF THE KILLER HABANERO. MCLLHENNY’S TINKERING WITH THE PEPPER GAVE BIRTH TO A SAUCE THAT BECAME SO POPULAR WITH LOCALS THAT IN 1868, HE WAS PERSUADED TO MARKET IT AT A DOLLAR A BOTTLE.

TODAY, ONCE THE PEPPERS HAVE RIPENED TO A DEEP, FIERY RED, THEY’RE PICKED AND CRUSHED INTO A MESH AND AGED FOR THREE YEARS IN WHITE OAK BARRELS, SEALED BENEATH A LAYER OF AVERY ISLAND SALT.

THEN THE FERMENTED MASH IS BLENDED WITH HIGH-GRAIN, NATURAL VINEGAR, STAINED, AND BOTTLED. THE SEEDS OF TABASCO’S PEPPERS ARE STILL GROWN ON THE AVERY ISLAND ESTATE, WHICH REMAINS HOME TO THE MALLHENNYS, BUT TODAY THOSE SEEDS ARE PLANTED MOSTLY IN LATIN AMERICA; THEN THE PEPPERS ARE BROUGHT HOME FOR  MAKING TABASCO.

COURTESY OF: “MY NEW ORLEANS – THE COOKBOOK”  BY JOHN BESH

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