Monday , November 30, 2009
Rain woke us up. Looking outside it was gray and wet with no sign of any break in the weather. Looking online at the weather it looked like that might be our lot for the entire day…oh well we have had very little rain and all we plan for today is one tour and driving, driving, driving…
We headed out a side road to Avery Island and the Tabasco Factory. We got there at 10 till 9:00 and had to wait at the toll gate to the island until 9:00 to enter! Along this small road we drove past fields of rice and sugar cane – both irrigated from small canals.
The story of Avery Island and Tabasco was interesting.
The island was created when a salt dome pushed up from the water. There is oil under the salt dome. The salt mine here is one of the oldest in the country and was carefully guarded during the civil war and finally captured and occupied by the north. The family was here before the civil war and returned to their land after the civil war. They mined the salt first and then began raising the peppers when a friend gave them some seeds from Mexico. The peppers are still grown here but additionally in Central and South America because they have a longer growing season. The peppers are all picked by hand and only when their color matches a red stick the family has provided for each worker. The peppers are prepared the same day they are picked – by washing and then grinding and mixing with a small amount of salt. The “mash” is then packed in oak barrels that they purchase from Jack Daniel. The lids with one small hole are put on the barrels and sealed with a salt paste from their own salt mines and the barrels of pepper mash ferment and sit in storage for 3 years.The barrels from the other locations are shipped here for storage and further preparation.
Barrel of Tabasco Mash sealed with Salt
Only after the 3 years of aging is the sauce made from mixing the mash with vinegar and any other seasoning ingredients. We were familiar with the red Tabasco and green Tabasco but not the wide variety of products they made. We watched the bottling of both red and green sauce today. We also tasted two types of flavored ice cream – jalapeno (Ben’s favorite) and sweet and spicy (Jane’s favorite); Tabasco cola, several sauces, jellies, and candies. You could easily spend $100 without trying. We bought a few things and headed back outside. They had a restaurant bar and we purchased Crawdad Etouffee and Boudin that we planned to eat for lunch. They also had Red Beans and Rice and Crawfish Corn Maque Choux. We wanted all 4 but really did not need that much lunch!
Crawfish Etouffee and Boudin
It was still raining as we left Avery Island. The family still lives on the island and manages the Tabasco Factory which sells Tabasco in over 160 countries! They have a bird sanctuary and tropical garden on the island that is supposed to be very nice but it was 10:20 and we felt we needed to be on our way home.
The rain continued up 90 to I-10 to Baton Rouge where we took I-12 instead of I-10 to New Orleans.
Bayou along I 12 - probably 30 miles of this on an elevated interstate.
Near the Mississippi line we picked up I-59 and began driving north east. Our last gas stop in Louisiana was interesting. It was part liquor store, part fast food, drive through Margaritas, and normal gas station stuff – it was indeed interesting. It seems strange to me to be selling liquor and gas in the same location – particularly the mixed drinks!
Still raining we continued to the Mississippi Welcome Center where we heated our lunch in the microwave --- it was really good. The Crawfish Etouffee was outstanding and the Boudin very interesting. It is a sausage casing filled with rice seasoned with pork and various Cajun spices. We shared both and it was more than enough lunch. We may not have spent much time in southern Louisiana but we certainly sampled their foods!
We continued across Mississippi and into Alabama where we made the decision to drive until 6 or 6:30 and stay in a Comfort Inn. It finally stopped raining about 3 PM. We made one stop at a Cracker Barrel in Meridian Mississippi for a book on tape. Since most Comfort Inns have a microwave can eat some of our leftover food which was our plan for tonight. We stopped in Tuscaloosa and will be on our way to Kingsport tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will be no rain. It is cold for us here – in 40’s and we expect it to be in the 30’s at home….back to reality.. Photos will be added when I have time