We travel about an hour to one of the best state parks I've stayed in on this particular trip – the Palmetto Island State Park. You are camped in a forest of Palmettos and there is a lot of privacy between the sites because of all of the Palmettos. Best of all, there is FREE laundry. I did four loads of wash, just because I could. I washed everything that wasn't nailed down in the RV. What a wonderful deal.
|Miko in the Palmettos|
Our tourist spot for the day was to head over to Avery Island which is …..drumroll please...where all things Tabasco is made. This is a privately owned family run business which has been creating this pepper sauce since right after the Civil War. The founder was a banker and after the Civil War wiped him out financially, he decided to try something new and came up with Tabasco. They now bottle about 700,000 bottles a day for shipment all over the globe.
|The Tabasco ice cream was pretty darn good|
|All things Tabasco - this was Van Halen's bass player's guitar|
There are only three ingredients in Tabasco – Tabasco peppers, salt and vinegar. There happens to be a scale that actually measures how hot a pepper is. Tabasco peppers rate at about 4000 heat units. To put that into perspective – Jalapeno rates about 2500 heat units while Habaneros rate about 350,000 Scofield heat units. Don't think I'm going anywhere near those Habaneros. I am really not too much of a fan of super spicy food – it seems like if you get too much hot sauce on your food, you can't taste the food. Luckily for me, Tabasco has thought about people like me and have branched out from the standard red bottle we all know – you know, the one you bought decades ago and still have in the back of your cabinet? I'm speaking to you Minnesotans out there – you know who you are.
|Some of the many faces of Tabasco|
This was a factory tour which caused me great joy. On the day they pick the peppers, they mash them up with a little bit of salt, put them in oak barrels (used barrels supplied by Jim Beam Whiskey – they have been cleaned and de-charred), close up the barrel and put a thick layer of salt on top of the barrel. These barrels are then set aside for three years while the little peppers think about what they are about to become. When it is time, the seeds and skins get removed, more salt is added and then a high quality vinegar. Family members still taste test this for quality assurance and then the sauce gets bottled. This was fun to see – it was the best type of factory tours – bottles moving down the assembly line – getting filled, tops and labels get put on the bottles and then the bottles get boxed for shipment. This is all done by super speedy machines, not much human interaction at all. Regretfully, I seem to have deleted all the videos I made of this machinery at work.
|Barrel warehouse - casks of Tabasco mash covered with salt|
|Everything you would want to know about Tabasco - placemats in the restaurant|
One of the Tabasco family members (actually the family name is McIlhenny) was really into gardening and created a lovely garden which he called the Jungle Garden. You could drive through it and stop along the way to view the sights. Flowers and shrubs were just starting to bloom but the highlight of the Jungle Gardens (besides the 14 foot stuffed alligator) was the Great Egret Rookery. Back in the day, the Great Egrets were becoming extinct because all the fashionable ladies wanted their feathers to decorate their hats. This man built special nesting racks over the water. He hand raised 8 little Great Egrets and from those 8, there are now thousands that return every year to nest and raise their families.
|Poor guy on the right, showing off his best chops for the ladies, but alas, no takers. He finally gave up and flew off to sulk|