It is said that the formula for Tabasco Sauce is a secret, and that the ingredients remain “virtually unchanged” since it was first made in 1868. This is of course a challenge for curious hot-pepper sauce-lovers, and I understand that many attempts have been made to reproduce this famous condiment.
The original recipe was certainly not a secret. Edmund McIlhenny received a patent for an ‘improvement in pepper-sauce’ in September 1870, and it seems reasonable to assume this was the condiment under discussion, it being unlikely that McIlhenny was simultaneously working on two sauces made from Tabasco peppers. We don’t know the extent of the tweaking that may or may not have gone on, but this original recipe seems like a good place to start for anyone wanting to make Mock Tabasco, does it not?
It is not possible to patent a recipe nowadays, and one wonders how the law could have been policed in 1870 – particularly since McIlhenny makes it clear in the patent document that the instructions are for others to use. I wonder when the secrecy started?
Here it is, the recipe for pepper-sauce made from Tabasco peppers, from U.S Patent Number 107,701 (September 1870.)
Be it known that I, Edmund McIlhenny, of New Iberia, in the parish of Iberia, and the State of Louisiana, have invented a new and improved Pepper-Sauce; and I do hereby declare that the following is a full, clear, and exact description thereof, which will enable others skilled in the art to make and use the same.
This invention relates to a new process of preparing an aromatic and strong sauce from the pepper known to the market as Tabasco pepper. This pepper is as strong as Cayenne pepper but of finer flavor.
My method of preparing the sauce is as follows:
The ripe fruit is mashed to a pulp and mixed with fine vinegar and rock salt, in the proportion of one pint of vinegar and one handful of salt to every gallon of pulp.
The receptacle containing this mixture is closely covered, and the latter macerated for about six weeks, when the pulp is worked through a sieve that is just fine enough to not permit the seeds to pass. About one drop of bisulphate of lime is then added to every ounce of mixture, for preventing fermentation.
The skin and seeds not passed through the sieve are potted for about twenty-four hours, with an ounce of alcohol to each pound of the residue.
This mixture is thoroughly agitated and then placed under a press, by which the remaining pulp and juice are forced out.
A drop of bisulphate of lime is added to every ounce received from the press. The two mixtures thus prepared are now put together, and the whole compound worked through a fine flour sieve. The sauce is thus completely prepared and ready for use.
One or two drops of it will be sufficient for any dish.
Having thus described my invention,
I claim as new and desire to secure by Letters Patent –
1. The pepper-sauce prepared of the ingredients herein set forth, substantially in the manner specified.
2. The herein-described process of preparing pepper-sauce from the ingredients, in about the proportions set forth.
Now, off you go and make your own Tabasco!