Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Breaux Bridge LA (Day 3)

We want to wish our niece, Lacey Houbregs, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! That is the most important thing to do on this blog post!!! We hope you have had a great day with your Mom and all your friends!! Sorry Uncle Doug & I weren't there to help celebrate but I am pretty sure you got treated like a queen!!

 

The sign is a bit far away so I wanted to show you the close-up above!!
 
Have a HAPPY BIRTHDAY LACEY!!!
 
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This morning we headed out to do a tour on Avery Island of the Tabasco plant. You know, that tiny little bottle that is usually buried on the back door shelf in your fridge. We used to joke that if you actually needed to buy a 2nd bottle of Tabasco it meant that you had been married for a really long time! But, ever looked at it to see the name McIlhenny Co. on it or Avery Island LA for that matter??
 
 
First though, enroute to Avery Island, proof positive that you
can actually put on wheels that are too BIG for your car......
 
 
Well, it's there and here is a bit of history......
 
Edmund McIlhenny  produced Tabasco from capsicum pepper plants first grown on Avery Island in the post-Civil war era. Each January the seeds of special capsicum peppers are planted in greenhouses and the seedlings are transplanted to the fields in April. By August, the peppers reach just the right shade of red and are handpicked (that's right, no machines!!). Oh by the way, ever wonder where the name Baton Rouge came from (you know the town near Lafayette?) Well, the pickers used to carry a little red painted stick in their pockets to know that they were picking just the EXACT correct shade of red peppers....thus Baton (Stick) Rouge (Red) was born!! How cool is that? Anyway, newly harvested peppers are mashed at the factory with a little of the special Avery Island salt. The mash then ferments and ages for 3 years in white oak barrels that they get from Jack Daniels. (Jack Daniels can only use them once but the Tabasco plant can use them for many, many years, over and over) When they have sealed the barrels up they also cover the top of the barrel with a layer of this same, nearly pure, white salt. During fermentation, the gases bubble up through a hole in the wooden top and mix with the salt and then the salt forms a hard top coating on top of the barrel. The other cool thing is that they have learned to send many of the seeds to Central and South America where farmers are hired to grow peppers for Tabasco. That way, they mitigate any problems with soil issues, bug problems, etc that they might encounter by only growing in their own area. Once it has finished aging, the mash is mixed with a special premium white vinegar, stirred for a month (yup), strained and bottled.
 
That is it..in the proverbial "nutshell". We just thought it was all pretty cool. To be fair though, the tour is a bit lame and doesn't take long. She says a few words, leads you to a projector room where you watch a 10 minute film and then let yourself out through the door to walk past the bottling room. Then there is another interactive little room and you let yourself out. You can find out lots of things from the literature you get there and a few bits from the guide. They also have a great store where (of course) you can purchase many things relating to Tabasco (and some not relating to Tabasco....who knew?!) Check out these pictures:
 

 

 

 

 

It's gotta be good if the Queen likes it, right??

Inside the museum there is an example of a "little red stick"

 

 
 
 

 
 
We did learn that they can bottle up to 700,000 bottles per day!!
It is shipped to over 160 countries and the labels are printed in 19 other
languages besides English!!

Example of the mash being churned up....

Represents the salt encrusted tops of the barrels....

 
Like I said, it could have been a bit better presented. It seemed that the guide wasn't really all that interested in what she was doing. She did throw in a "any one have any questions" at the end of her little 3 minute talk but that was all the input from her. Oh well. It would have been nice to see the area where the real barrels are kept too. But, all in all, we enjoyed it.
 
While we were there, Doug spotted a brochure for the Konriko Rice Company, just about 9 miles away in New Iberia. Now, this was interesting. Who would ever think of rice here!! Well, hold on to your seats people because it's not just rice in those paddies, it's CRAWFISH too!!! Oh brother, have I ever lived a sheltered life!!
 
When we were coming from Lake Charles to this location, cruising along the freeway, I happened to look over at a really flat, slightly flooded field. It was near a big hangar type of building and I just figured that it was like a rural landing strip. The reason I thought this is because I saw little red dome-like things in the field. Sort of the size of a landing strip light. I just thought "oh, the landing strip is flooded" Well, turns out that this is a rice paddie and those are crawfish traps - I LOVE EXPLORATION!!!!! I know, weird huh but it seems that the farmers get crawfish and put them in the field, over the years, the crawfish multiply (as they don't practice family planning of any sort) and they live in the field. Not sure how the traps work but they catch them and thus we have things here like crawfish boil (which we are going for tomorrow) and Crawfish Etouffee (which we had a few days ago and today). See, I thought these little critters lived in the sea but they do not - they are fresh water. In the "off-season" (when they are not harvesting the rice) they can dig down into the wet ground and just live there. There are over 125,000 acres of crawfish farms in the state of Louisiana. Just Google "Crawfish Farming in Louisiana" They have great pictures!!!
 
So, along with all that, they grow rice - who knew!!! This rice mill is America's oldest rice mill. We had a great guide, Wendy. she showed us a 15 minute film about the Cajun culture, like how it began and how it developed. Then she took us on a personal tour (that's cuz we were the only ones on the tour, but still that's personal, right?)  She was great and very enthusiastic about the history of this Konriko Rice Mill. You can google them at www.konriko.com and find out lots more. But, it still operates nearly the same way as it did before. The only thing they have changed is that the scales are a little modern (like they don't use chains to haul the wagon up in the air to dump it) and they have electricity. We love these kinds of places! 
 
 

 
Silo that holds 100,000 lbs of rice. Today they
had just received 30,000 lbs from a farmer....

The scales. This is where they uses the chains to hoist up one end
of the wagons. They still have the chains up in the rafters.
Now they just have the truck drive on the scale...

Front end office....

 

Pest control - don't pet the cats, they are not tame....
 
Original wagons. They were made onsite and are still used today...

Notice the original steel plates on the floor. They put these in originally so those wagons above could run on them without wearing out the floors - pretty smart!!
 
This paddy machine shakes the husk off the rice...

Original one installed and still used today!!

See those little bottles? You put oil into them and they drop, drip by drip, oil onto
the gears so they don't dry up....see the note on the wall in the picture below 

 

They bag some of the bran-like product from cleaning the rice. This is quite powdery and oily feeling and is quite combustible. It is not used for human consumption just animal
feed. In order to use it for human consumption they would have to have
refrigeration in the plant and they cannot change the plant because of the
historic designation. 

...and if it gets stuck in the tube, they just bang on the big tube!!

Those big old steel plates everywhere....

Original sewing machine for stitching up the tops of the bags....

 

Front end office - complete with punch clock....

That says it all!!!
 
 
Leaving New Iberia, Doug managed to get a few pictures of some neat old houses. Really interesting mix of fancy houses and some not so fancy. Takes about 1/2 hour to get back to Breaux Bridge, going through Lafayette.
 
 

 

 
 
After all that excitement, we headed back over to Breaux Bridge and over to Poche's Restaurant. This is the restaurant that Virdy's Dad and Mom started and still runs. It is just a few miles from the camp. They also have a store and meat market. We had a great dinner!! Crawfish Etouffee for me and Doug had a combo plate. So, so good....(Jerry & Paula - are your mouths watering yet??)

 

Come on in - lots of room!!!

Gotta love a restaurant with deer head trophies on the wall!!
Welcome to hunting country!!!

That's one heck of a plate of food!!
 
Just not something we get in Canada...and now they are in my fridge!!!!
 
 
So, that was one heck of a day. We loved it. We really enjoy getting out to see what an area has to offer. You can never see everything but we try and see some things!! Tomorrow is the swamp boat tour - yeehaw!!! That is only about 10 miles from here. If you don't here from us, maybe you best check on the alligators here!!!
 
Peace....
 
Thought for the Day: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line but it is by no means the most interesting! 

3 comments:

  1. That's got be the stupidest looking car I've ever seen, with the big wheels. I don't get it.

    We also enjoyed the Tabasco tour a couple of years ago. Too bad it's not the greatest tour. Did you get to sample the hot and sour ice cream in the shop?

    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

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    Replies
    1. I know, crazy looking car, wasn't it? Yes, they did have samples of the spicy ice cream. Not much for flavour.....

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    2. thos wheels are called 'Donks"

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