Friday, September 11, 2009

Avery Island and area

I headed south to Louisiana from Natchez, landing in Abbeville, LA, at Betty's RV Park. I had heard about Betty's through the Escapees club and I would recommend it to everyone. I've only been here a few days, but she runs a great park. There is happy hour every evening and sometimes food. Last night there was beans and cornbread and they are talking about a crab boil maybe tomorrow night. Yummy!
But yesterday we went sightseeing to Avery Island, home of the Tobasco plant. Still a family owned operation, they bottle over 450,000 bottles a day.
The tobasco peppers which are used in the original recipe. The same recipe is still being used some 100 years later. Although they started with peppers grown on the island, over 90% of the peppers now come from Central and South America, although they still use seeds provided by the Tobasco company.

Here they are bottling their green Tobasco sauce which is made from Jalapeno's.
When the peppers are picked they are mixed with some salt, which the salt comes from one of the richest salt mines in the world, right from Avery Island, then ground and placed in white oak barrels to age and ferment for 3 years. And the white oak barrels come from the Jack Daniels distillery after they have been used to age their whiskey. After fermenting the mixture is mixed with vinegar and spices and bottled. At their country store we sampled Tobasco ice cream, Tobasco pop and a variety of Tobasco sauces and condiments. I liked the ice cream but couldn't drink the pop.

We then headed further south to Cypremort State Park and the gulf. There are fishing piers, beaches, picnic areas, kayak and sailboat launches as well as a boat ramp and they even have cabins, but no camping.

We could see across the bay to a fishing town so we went to investigate. We saw a mixture of commercial and resort. Here are some commercial fishing boats.

Crab pots.

But across the canal were lots of homes like these.

Back in New Iberia we located the oldest operating rice mill in the U.S. Konreko Rice (Conrad Rice Company) has been milling rice here at this plant since 1912. Originally the plant was powered by steam, but was converted later to electricity. Here is the Paddy Machine which separates the hull from the rice. The result is brown rice.

Our tour consisted of seeing the operation in doll house fashion from a mock up.

I really did enjoy the demonstration and explanation. I never realized brown rice still had the bran attached and white rice was simply rice with the bran removed. This company gives away the hulls to local farmers and sells the bran and broken rice to local farmers for feed.

It was a small operation, and a listed historic site, but I don't believe that is any excuse for the filthyness of the facility. They are still producing a food product for human consumption. Personally I would never buy this brand after what I saw. Here is a cat sitting atop of the bags which will be filled with rice bran (yes, this bag is for feed, not human), but the bagging line is the same as they use for bagging the rice, which is sold for human consumption. Cat hair in the rice?

This was running across the floor.

The bagging facility.

Outside the facility. The scary part was I had been eating samples of the rice inside their gift shop and company store. This was before touring the place and seeing how dirty it was. There were cobwebs on some of the equipment which must be as old as the building. I wasn't the only one to notice. One of the other people on the tour asked if the place was ever inspected by the health department. By the way, they sell under the names of Konrico Rice, and Hol-grain products.


Diana said...

Well, I'll be sure to skip those brands...

Barbara and Ron said...

Thanks for the tip. I went to Avery Island years ago and only got to see a movie. I guess I have to go back for the tour.

Good job, as always.

Marge said...

It was fun to read your blog since I have been in the area twice. We each see a slightly different view each time we visit.

When my brother and I were in N.O. we only found one Jazz bar - it was great!

Enjoy your travels.