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A Hot Sauce Guide Takes A Stand Against Bland!
Hot Sauce 101


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Hot Sauce History

Tabasco SauceHot sauces sell like hot cakes and that's actually nothing new. They've been around since the first humans started chomping on red-hot chile peppers and popular ever since someone figured out how good they taste (see Eating Through The Pain).

Thumb through an old issue of a domestic newspaper from the early 1800s and don't be surprised if you come across an advertisement for cayenne sauce. The British Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce hit our shores in 1849.

In terms of our own native hot sauces, one of the first to be manufactured here was Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce, which Edmund McIlhenny began selling in 1868 and is still available today.

Most hot sauces originated down south where Cajun cooking and other fiery ethnic foods fueled the drive to make hot sauces. For example, Tabasco® hails from Louisiana. In fact, the initial success of Tabasco yielded a raft of imitators including Trappey's Hot Sauce made by B. F. Trappey, an ex-McIlhenny employee, as well as Crystal Hot Sauce, and Frank's Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

Hot Sauce Today

What's the trend? The hotter the better, but taste counts too. At hot & spicy food festivals and in cooking classes, I'm always asked: "What's the hottest hot sauce on the market?" A few people are seeking revenge, others like being macho, while some people just can't seem to get their food hot enough. Demand for the most incendiary sauce possible has prompted some makers to market vials of capsaicin (the chemical that gives chiles their sting), which to my mind is akin to extracting caffeine from coffee: caffeine is very powerful (and can kill you), but it misses the point -- taste. Sophisticated in their palates, most Americans are looking for heat and flavor -- not just burn -- and I suspect the most flavorful sauces will be the most enduring.

A hundred years ago, when the availability of ingredients often defined a hot sauce style, sauces were easily characterized by geography. Today regional distinctions become blurred, as people take their culinary traditions with them to new countries, and fresh exotic produce is available worldwide.

Excerpt from The Great Hot Sauce Book, by Jennifer Trainer Thompson

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