Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hot Stuff...

Last night Linda decided that today we'd go to Avery Island....home of the Tabasco bottling plant. After some puttering around the house this morning, we headed out.

Tugboat hard at work...

As we crossed a bridge that passed over a swamp and then a lake, it seemed that it all ran together. Not sure if it's supposed to look this way or if it has flooded recently... I saw on the news tonight where Texas had some hard rains yesterday and caused some flooding and I know there was a line of storms to the west of us yesterday so perhaps that is what caused all this water. As we pulled up to the little toll shack, at the entrance to Avery Island, we got a good laugh out of this guy when he stretched this pole up to the truck window to get our money. Was a long pole with a clothespin on the end to clip your dollar bill to. Too cute !

We got to the visitor center and the parking lot was really full of cars and two buses along the side. Two bus loads of grade school kids had just gotten there and we could hear their chatter as we entered the lobby of the Tabasco building. We had a little bit of a wait before we could start our tour.

We were struck by what seemed to be a vinegary smell as we entered the building. Good reason for that....Once the peppers are ground into pepper mash, they are then placed in oak barrels that the company acquires from Jack Daniels (the distillery can only use them once and then they must be discarded). What a great way to recycle them. The pepper mash is placed in the barrels and sealed and a thick coating of salt (mined from the salt mines at Avery Island) is placed across the lid. The lids have holes in them so the gases from the fermenting peppers can escape. The salt prevents impurities from entering the barrels. The pepper mash cures in the barrels for three years and then it's opened up and mixed with vinegar and prepared into the famous Tabasco concoction. It mixes for up to 28 days in a vat before it is strained and bottled. These Tabasco folks are great at finding uses for leftover items. The seeds that are strained out of the sauce are sold to various companies that make gum and toothpaste...guess it gives them a little "zip". The barrels are reused and have a life of 22 - 100 years. Once they start to fall apart, the barrels are busted up and sold to be used in smokers (what an intense flavor that must be after having pepper mash in them for up to 100 years). After touring the plant we went over to the country store...
There we sampled many of the different flavors of sauce that Tabasco makes...I liked the sweet and spicy one the best. The others were too hot for me. We also tried the sweet and spicy ice cream....that was yummy ! It was sneaky ice cream....you'd take a bite and about a minute later you'd feel that "bite" in the back of your throat....very sneaky. By the time we got to the store all of the little kids had made it over there and were trying to find things to spend their money on...it was a zoo ! We looked around briefly and then got out of there.
On the way down I had seen this place and we decided to eat there on the way home... They boasted the "world's best biscuits" so I thought we needed to check them out since I know my mom makes the world's best biscuits. They had three "blue plate specials" for $5.50 so Linda decided to try one. Evidently Linda's taste of chicken the other day made her cross over to the "dark side" as she selected Liver and Onions. She got all of this plus dessert for $5.50. I had a salad with shrimp and fresh sauteed mushrooms on it and it was very good. I had peach cobbler for dessert (asked for something that had their biscuits in it but they didn't have anything like shortcake, etc.)The cobbler was very good though. As we both climbed in the truck, stuffed from the great meal we'd just had, I reminded Linda of the long, bumpy ride back to Baton Rouge ahead of us. For any of you who have traveled I-10 west in Louisiana, the concrete seams are horrendous and we were pounded every mile that we covered. My thought is that there is no way that any of that dessert we ate had any chance of forming into fat cells with all that jiggling on the ride home..... That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

2 comments:

Jim and Bobbie said...

Really enjoyed your story of the Tabasco plant. We all have photos like that one of Linda. Avery Island is one of our favorite stops across country. Bobbie

cprabst said...

Hi guys, we plan to visit the factory tomorrow afternoon. So, we'll belong to the group with pictures like the one of Linda after that :-)

Hope all is well with you.