The Smithsonian Breaks Down the History of Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce

Photo: Flickr/sacks08

Photo: Flickr/sacks08

This year we saw a number of food writers call out barrel-aged hot sauce as one of the big trends of 2013. And while it may indeed be primed for a moment in the sun, it’s not a new invention. The Smithsonian digs into the history of barrel-aging in America, showing us how the condiment came to be in the first place.

We’re brought back nearly 145 years to when Tabasco was invented by a Louisiana businessman named Edmund McIlhenny. According to company history, he decided to spice up his meals and created the sauce from red chili peppers, Avery Island salt, and French white vinegar. The mix was kept in a crocker jars and barrels for two 30-day periods. The Smithsonian’s account is different, indicating that the mix was aged in white oak barrels for three years.

Still, the practice of barrel-aging is a shared element between both tales. Like whiskey, hot sauce develops flavor and color from a nap inside wood barrels. Recently, various restaurants and purveyors have incorporated this technique into their sauce-making, including Vesta Dipping Grill (Denver), Magnolia Pub and Brewery (San Francisco), and Waterfront Alehouse (Brooklyn).

[via The Smithsonian]

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