There is always a bottle of Tabasco sauce in our kitchen, when I was in my teens I insisted on putting it on everything, much to my mother’s disdain including spag bol, tomato soup, chilli. Now of course, it is one of the main ingredients in my favourite drink, Bloody Mary. Today we’re finding out more about these heat-packed little drops and serving up some hot sticky chicken.
Tabasco sauce is a hot sauce made from tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), vinegar and salt. It has a hot, spicy flavour. It was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a banker who moved to Louisiana from Maryland around 1840. McIlhenny initially used discarded cologne bottles to distribute his sauce to family and friends but in 1868, when he started to sell to the public, he ordered thousands of new cologne bottles from a New Orleans glassworks.
The sauce has become a family affair. On his death in 1890, McIlhenny was succeeded by his eldest son, John Avery McIlhenny, who expanded and modernised the business. He, in turn, was succeeded by his brother Edward Avery McIlhenny, running the business from 1898 until his death in 1949. Walter S. McIlhenny, a World War II marine, then succeeded his uncle Edward Avery McIlhenny, serving as president of McIlhenny Company from 1949 until his death in 1985. Subsequently, Edward “Ned” McIlhenny Simmons ran the company as president and CEO for several years, and remained chairman of the board until his death in 2012. Paul McIlhenny, sixth in the line of McIlhenny men to run the business, assumed the presidency in 1998, and occupied the post of chairman until his death in early 2013. In 2012, a cousin of the McIlhennys, Tony Simmons, assumed the company’s presidency and runs the company to this day.
McIlhenny is one of only 850 companies around the world to receive a royal warrant of appointment that certifies the company as a supplier to Queen Elizabeth II. The warrant held is “Supplier of Tabasco Sauce HM The Queen – Master of the Household – Granted in 2009”.
Originally all peppers used in Tabasco sauce were grown on Avery Island. Today peppers grown on the Island are used to produce seed stock, which is then shipped to growers, primarily in Central and South America to produce the chilli peppers themselves. More predictable weather allows a constant year-round supply. Following company tradition, peppers are hand picked. The salt used in the sauce is supplied by a salt mine on the island.
There are now several different kinds of Tabasco Sauce. The original red variety of Tabasco pepper sauce measures 2,500–5,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. The habanero sauce is hotter, rating 7,000+ Scoville units. The chipotle sauce adds chipotle pepper to the original sauce, measuring 1,500–2,500. The garlic variety, which blends milder peppers in with the tabasco peppers, rates 1,200–1,400 Scovilles, and the green pepper (jalapeño) sauce is even milder at 600–1,200 Scovilles. The Sweet and Spicy sauce is the mildest at only 100-600 Scoville units.
Tabasco sauce is sold in more than 165 countries and territories and is packaged in 22 languages. The Tabasco bottle is still modelled on the original bottles used in 1868. As many as 720,000 two-ounce (57 ml) bottles of Tabasco sauce are produced daily at the Tabasco factory on Avery Island. Bottles range from the common two-ounce and five-ounce (59 ml and 148 ml) bottles, up to a one US gallon-(3.8 liter) jug for food service businesses, and down to a 1/8-ounce (3.7 ml) miniature bottle.
One-eighth-ounce bottles of Tabasco, bearing the presidential seal, are served on Air Force One! The British and Canadian armies also issue small bottles of Tabasco sauce in their rations.
A little trivia for you: The original red Tabasco sauce has a shelf life of five years when stored in a cool and dry place but other Tabasco flavours have shorter shelf lives. During the Vietnam War, Brigadier General Walter S. McIlhenny issued The Charlie Ration Cookbook.(Charlie ration being the name for the field meal then given to troops.) The cookbook came wrapped around a two-ounce bottle of Tabasco sauce in a camouflaged, water-resistant container. Tabasco appeared on the menu of NASA’s space shuttle program and went into orbit on the shuttles. It was in the Skylab and on the International Space Station and is popular with astronauts as a means of countering the dulling of the sense of taste frequently experienced in space.
- 1 kg Chicken Wings
- A large pinch of sea salt
- A large pinch of fresh milled black pepper
For the marinade
- A glug of olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 shallots, minced
- 300g tomato Sauce
- 2 tbsp of Tabasco
- A pinch of brown sugar
- A splash of dark soy sauce
- A splash of dark rum
- A splash of balsamic vinegar