We set the GPS controls for the heart of the Sun...No, Really...for Avery Island, one of the strangest and most unlikely places in the US.
They make real Tabasco Sauce there. Accept no substitutes. As you approach the Island at the end of a deserted two lane highway, it rises in an unlikely manner from the surrounding terrain.
The island is a natural salt dome that begins 16 feet below ground and goes down about the depth of Mt. Everest. The MacClenny family began experimenting with pepper sauce in 1862 and sold the first 650 bottles in used perfume bottles in 1866.
Today, as we tour the factory, they are pumping out 700,000 bottles a day. The peppers are selected when ripe and ground into a paste. The paste is stored in used Jack Daniels oak whiskey barrels where it ferments for three years. When ready, the fermented paste is mixed with vinegar and stirred for 28 days, until properly liquefied.
The family (there are now 100 heirs) has established a lovely garden of oaks, bamboo, cypress, lagoons and gators on a large part of their 2,000 acre island. A highlight of the gardens is "Bird Island" which they established to encourage breeding of endangered waterfowl.
If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"
Most Louisiana hot sauces simply grind up peppers and add vinegar. Tabasco is the real deal. Go to their website for great recipes. Can't wait to try their new Chipotle sauce, made from smoked jalapenos.
We'll be hitting a 184-mile scenic drive along the coastal marshes of Louisiana on the way to Judge Roy Bean's out in West Texas. I'll be looking for freshly squashed giant Nutria along the highway. When you cook giant rat gumbo, you don't want to tell folks what you're cooking and you want to use plenty of Tabasco sauce to cover the taste.
By the way, in case you were wondering, a bayou always has flowing water, but a swamp occasionally drys up so tree seeds can germinate. If it has trees in it, it's a swamp.