Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served. Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
Where Tabasco Sauce comes from and who created the sauce.
My misconceptions on the origins of Tabasco sauce were corrected by a chance meeting in Switzerland some 15 years ago. There I met a well-informed and interesting gentleman who had spent many years working for the European distributor of Tabasco and the truth was out. Tabasco is neither Mexican, Spanish, French nor Swiss. Tabasco is 100% American.
Tabasco is used to spice up many dishes in cuisines around the world, and that includes French Cuisine; in France, the perfect Steak Tartar includes Tabasco. Tabasco is also the heart of the perfect Bloody Mary cocktail in France or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Since 1868 when the sauce was patented, it has been made on Avery Island, in the State of Louisiana, USA. Behind every great sauce is a lover of good food. The creator of Tabasco was no less; he was Edmund McIlhenny, a banker in New Orleans. Upon marrying Mary Eliza Avery, the happy couple moved to his wife’s family owned “Avery Island” more than 100 miles away on the Louisiana coast;
Here Edmund began his experiments both as a gardener and a lover of good food. Then he became interested in making a sauce from his red peppers. Today when you look at your bottle of Tabasco sauce, whether in France, Japan, or the USA, every bottle will still show “McIlhenny Company, Pepper sauce. TABASCO®, Made in U.S.A. Avery Island, LA”, it is made nowhere else. They did try that once, but that experiment was short-lived
In 2009 McIlhenny became one of the few U.S. companies to have received a royal warrant of appointment that certifies the company as a supplier to Queen Elizabeth II of the UK. The warrant held is: “Supplier of Tabasco Sauce HM The Queen” .
Originally all peppers used in Tabasco sauce were grown on Avery Island; however, the homegrown peppers are no longer enough to meet demand. Today the peppers used to produce Tabasco are grown in Central and South America from seed stock that is grown on Avery Island. The Peppers are ground into a mash and placed along with salt and the other ingredients including vinegar in white oak barrels. These barrels are mostly re-used barrels that previously held Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.
After aging for up to three years and a final tasting Tabasco is bottled as a finished sauce. Even the salt used in Tabasco production comes from an Avery Island salt mine.
From the original red sauce, the Tabasco brand has grown and now includes a wide range of sauces including some that are blended with other peppers. Only the Jalapeño-based green sauce has no Tabasco peppers at all and from among all the sauces only the original red Tabasco has the full three-year aging process.
McIlhenny Company also permits other brands to use and advertise Tabasco sauce as an ingredient in their products. The sauce is labeled in 22 languages and dialects, and prepared for shipment to over 180 countries and territories around the world.