Interesting facts about Tabasco

Tabasco is a brand of hot sauce.

It is made from tabasco peppers, vinegar, and salt.

Tabasco is aged in oak barrels for up to three years.

It is produced by McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, southern Louisiana.

Although tabasco peppers were initially grown only on Avery Island, they are now primarily cultivated in South America.

The tabasco pepper is a variety of the chili pepper species originating in Mexico. It is around 4 cm (1.6 in) long, are initially pale yellowish-green and turn yellow and orange before ripening to bright red. Tabascos rate from 30,000 to 50,000 on the Scoville scale of heat levels, and are the only variety of chili pepper whose fruits are “juicy”, i.e., not dry on the inside.

The peppers are named after the Mexican state of Tabasco. The initial letter of tabasco is rendered in lowercase when referring to the botanical variety but capitalized when referring to the Mexican state or to the brand of hot sauce, Tabasco sauce.

According to company legend, Tabasco was first produced in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny, a Maryland-born former banker who moved to Louisiana around 1840.

A food lover and avid gardener, Edmund McIlhenny was given seeds of tabasco peppers that had come from Mexico or Central America. On Avery Island in South Louisiana, he sowed the seeds, nurtured the plants and delighted in the spicy flavor of the peppers they bore. Many years later
field hands used a little red stick, or ‘le petite bâton rouge,’ to measure the ripeness of the peppers.

McIlhenny grew his first commercial pepper crop in 1868. The next year, he sent out 658 bottles of sauce at one dollar a piece wholesale to grocers around the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans. He labeled it “Tabasco,” a word of Mexican Indian origin believed to mean “place where the soil is humid” or “place of the coral or oyster shell.” McIlhenny secured a patent in 1870, and TABASCO® Sauce began its journey to set the culinary world on fire. Sales grew, and by the late 1870s, he sold his sauce throughout the US and even in Europe.

McIlhenny packaged the sauce in small cologne-type bottles with sprinkler fitments, which he then corked and sealed in green wax. The sprinkler fitment was important because his pepper sauce was concentrated and best used when sprinkled, not poured. Though we no longer seal our bottles with wax, the sauce inside is every bit as pungent as the one McIlhenny first bottled back in 1868.

In 1890, McIlhenny was succeeded by his eldest son, John Avery McIlhenny, who expanded and modernized the business, but resigned after only a few years in order to join Theodore Roosevelt’s 1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, the Rough Riders.

The Tabasco bottle is an original design and has remained almost unchanged up to the present.

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. There are also 0.11-ounce portion control (PC) packets of Tabasco sauce.

McIlhenny is one of just a few US companies to have received a royal warrant of appointment that certifies the company as a supplier to Queen Elizabeth II. McIlhenny is one of the 850 companies around the world that have been officially designated as suppliers to the queen by such warrants. The warrant held is “Supplier of Tabasco HM The Queen – Master of the Household – Granted in 2009”.

One-eighth-ounce bottles of Tabasco, bearing the presidential seal, are served on Air Force One. The US military has included Tabasco sauce in Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) since the 1980s. The Australian, British and Canadian armies also issue small bottles of Tabasco sauce in their rations.

Tabasco appeared on the menu of NASA’s Space Shuttle program and went into orbit on the Shuttles. It was on Skylab and on the International Space Station and is popular with astronauts as a means of countering the bland food they frequently are provided with in space.

Tabasco brand pepper sauce is sold in more than 195 countries and territories and is packaged in 25 languages and dialects.

The Tabasco sauce brand also incorporates multiple varieties including: original red sauce, habanero, sriracha, and others.

In Japan and parts of Ontario, Canada, Tabasco sauce is popular on pizza. Also, in parts of the southeastern US it is used to “spice up” pancakes.

There are many other kinds of “hot pepper sauce” on the market, most of them similar to Tabasco, but Tabasco is by far the most famous.

Tabasco sauce has a shelf life of 5 years when stored in a cool and dry place.