Happy Summer!!

Happy Summer!!

Wherever Home is Parked?

Wherever Home is Parked?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Louisiana’s Cajun Country Avery Island is home of to the famous Tabasco Sauce

(Lafayette, La continued)

It was a ruff night with the rain moving in.  My back was screaming and to top it off, I’m still fighting this crud.  I needed to lay on my back on heating pads for my back but then all the drainage made me cough, choke and gag from the crud.  It was another ruff night of sleeping and today the colder temps have moved in.  While making dinner tonight I managed to set off the fire alarm detector.  You ask what was for dinner tonight?  Home made veggie soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on this cold winter night!.  I love my new cast iron griddle I purchased while here.  It made the grilled cheese perfect!  It’s a night of relaxing and watching TV and since there isn’t much to post about your going to get a continuous of our day trip to Lafayette, La.


We still had time to run on down to Avery Island Louisiana’s Cajun Country is home of the world-famous TABASCO Sauce.   Avery Island, Louisiana, lies about 140 miles west of New Orleans. Surrounded by swamps and marshes, Avery Island is a mysteriously beautiful place where the pepper fields grow, the factory hums, and the McIlhenny family and their employees continue to live and work much as they have for generations.

Avery Island

Once you arrive on the island you come to a gate where there is a charge of $1 per vehicle to enter.  Really expensive huh?

Avery Island is an Island Made of Salt … it’s one of five salt dome islands rising above the flat Louisiana Gulf Coast. These islands formed over the eons when alluvial sediment covered a vast plain of salt left behind by an ancient saltwater ocean. Surrounded by low-lying swamps and marshes, Avery Island stands at 163 feet above mean sea level.

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It’s a Natural Paradise of a botanical treasure, Avery Island is inhabited by exotic plant and animal species from around the world. And under the Avery/McIlhenny family’s careful management, it has remained that way to this day.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to see anything in bloom while visiting.

 Tabasco Plant

I borrowed these pictures since we didn’t get any of the outside as we were just in time for a tour.


The island was named after the Avery family, who settled there in the 1830s, but long before that, American Indians had found that Avery Island’s verdant flora covered a precious natural resource—a massive salt dome. There the Indians boiled the Island’s briny spring water to extract salt, which they traded to other tribes as far away as central Texas, Arkansas, and Ohio.

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Petite Anse Island, renamed Avery Island in the late 19th century, was purchased by John Craig Marsh of New Jersey in 1818. Marsh operated a sugar plantation on the island's fertile soil. A daughter, Sarah Craig Marsh, married Daniel Dudley Avery in 1837, thus uniting the Marsh and Avery families. Daniel Dudley Avery hailed from  Baton Rouge, and was a jurist. In 1849, Daniel became co-owner of his in-law's sugar plantation, and in 1855 he became sole owner.

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During the American Civil War, a mine of pure rock salt was founded on Avery Island in May 1862, which subsequently produced more than 22 million pounds (10,000 metric tons) of salt for the Confederacy. According to the historian John D. Winters, the rock salt mine had been well-protected until Union General Nathaniel P. Banks  began a push up Bayou Teche.   After an all-night march, Union Colonel W.K. Kimball, in Winters' words, "advanced to the beautiful little island and, without opposition, burned eighteen buildings, smashed the steam engines and mining equipment, scattered six hundred barrels of salt awaiting shipping, and brought away a ton of gunpowder left behind by Confederate General Taylor's men.

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hubby and I posing by the huge Tabasco bottle

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Tommy and Diane above and Don below

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Before the Civil War, Edmund Mcllhenny joined the Avery family by wedding Mary Eliza Avery, daughter of Daniel Dudley Avery and Sarah Marsh Avery. In 1868, McIlhenny founded McIlhenny Company and began manufacturing Tabasco brand pepper sauce. In 1870, he received letters patent for his sauce processing formula. That same basic process is still used today.

Avery Island was hit hard in September 2005 by Hurricane Rita . The family spent $5 million on constructing a 17-foot (5.2 m)-high levee, pumps, and back-up generators to ensure that future hurricanes will not disrupt Tabasco sauce production.  Although during hurricane Katrina the family and employees did evacuated  and the plant was closed down.

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Bird sanctuary

… Under the Avery/McIlhenny family's management, Avery Island has remained a natural paradise, inhabited by many animal species, as well as by exotic plants from throughout the world.  Edward Avery Mcllhenny, or "Mr. Ned" as he was affectionately known, founded this bird colony—later called Bird City—around 1895 after plume hunters had slaughtered egrets by the thousands to provide feathers for ladies hats. Edward gathered eight young egrets, raised them in captivity on the Island, and released them in the fall to migrate across the Gulf of Mexico. The following spring the birds returned to the Island with others of their species, a migration that continues today.

Exotic plants

Edward McIlhenny introduced numerous varieties of azaleas, Japanese camellias, Egyptianpapyrus and other rare plants to the Island's natural landscape. When oil was discovered on the Island in 1942, he ensured that production crews bypassed live oak trees and buried pipelines (or painted them green) to preserve the Island's beauty, wildlife, and utility as a wildlife refuge.

Today Jungle Gardens and Bird City are open to the public .. we did not tour either of these as we had run out of time since we arrived near closing time. 

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We arrived and our tour guide gave us some history and told us that … Jack Daniels whiskey barrel's are purchased because the barrel's can only be used one time for whiskey and for Tabasco they can be used until they are no longer any good.  The barrel's are cleaned and scraped out.

Because the demand for Tabasco is so big, the peppers grown on Avery island are used for growing seeds only. These peppers are overseen by the family and a family member checks the peppers and when they reach a certain color of red, then they are allowed to be picked.   The seeds from these plants are then taken from the plant and sent all over the world to be grown into pepper plants. This allows for year-long growing in places like Central and South America because these plants need ample heat and sunlight to grow. Once the plants produce the peppers needed for Tabasco, they’re sent back to Louisiana where the mixing and aging process begins. Here’s where the magic happens!

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The peppers are mixed with a tiny bit of Avery Island’s own salt into a mixture called mash. This mash is placed in  barrels, covered with salt (it acts as a natural barrier) and then allowed to ferment for up to three years.  (see above photo of barrel covered with salt)

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The peppers are mixed with a tiny bit of Avery Island’s own salt into a mixture called mash. This mash is placed in barrels, covered with salt (it acts as a natural barrier) and then allowed to ferment for up to three years.  Under the direction of the family members. 

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Under close supervision and plenty of time, the mash is then taken out of the oak barrels and mixed with vinegar. It’s stirred constantly for several weeks and then strained of its seeds and skins and then bottled. This is the bright red sauce that you and I know and love but did you know it is sold in more than 160 countries and that the factory produces over 720,000 bottles a day?

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Today’s product were being labeled and shipped to India.  It’s neat they had a sign that read “Going to India” (sorry didn’t get a picture of it)

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We were all given free samples …

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After our tour we headed over to the store to do some sampling.

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They had an outside food stand for the families, workers and visitors that come through.  We decided not to try anything at their stand as we have another place for dinner in mind.

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We enjoyed touring the Tabasco plant even though we are not into spicy foods.  My boys will be happy as we purchased several things for them to try.  We had orders when went to Cajun country to bring back some good spices.  Well we have purchased several Tony’s spices and now Tabasco.  I got a sweet & spicy, buffalo and a pepper jelly.

My favorite was the Tabasco Ice Cream.  It tasted great after sampling several hot items and one was a bit on the spicy side the other was perfect.