Boiled Peanuts

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K:  Oh, boiled peanuts….honestly, I was at least 12-years-old before I knew that whole peanuts could be served any other way.  Sure, I’d had peanuts in the fancy-pants ‘bridge mix’ that always seemed to end up on the coffee table at the holidays, but, much like ‘sweet tea’ was never called anything but ‘tea’ (since that was the only way anyone ever served it), boiled peanuts were never called anything but peanuts where I grew up.  Even at events like pro baseball games, the  lunch-sized paper bags of peanuts hawked by vendors in and out of the stadium for $1 were all of the boiled variety.  It was not until after the Olympics came and went that I ever saw the bags of roasted peanuts for sale in that scenario, and even then there was always the choice of boiled or roasted.  Peanut stands were everywhere in my youth, and pretty much every convenience store always had a slow-cooker on the counter and big pot of peanuts in the back to keep it filled, and many would have two – one plain, and one ‘cajun’…meaning hotter than hell.   So imagine my surprise when we moved to the Boston area, and OK, sure, fine…I get it…boiled peanuts are a Southern thing, but people…seriously? There are NO RAW PEANUTS here. None.  There are peanuts EVERYWHERE…every grocery store has racks upon racks of bags of roasted peanuts, but not only are none of them raw, store managers will look at you as if you had three heads if you ask them about stocking such….ask me how I know.  So I began shipping peanuts in a couple times a year via the magical Internet just so I could get my ‘fix’.  Dry, raw peanuts can be had from several reliable sources, and are perfectly reasonable substitute for the fresh green variety.  Yes, they will be different, but realistically, the difference isn’t THAT vast, and it’s MUCH more important that you get to have them, and raw green peanuts are quite difficult to get your hands on any appreciable distance from where they are grown.  If you happen to live in an area with a significant Asian population, one large enough to support a good-sized Asian market, then there is a good chance that you will occasionally stumble onto fresh, green peanuts, and if you do, BUY THEM ALL.  You can live on boiled peanuts and beer for a week and contemplate how good the simple life can be, or you can do what I do and take them with you to work and to parties and make people try them.  Spread the gospel.

M: For many years, my summers included a family trip South to spend a week at the beach.  Sometimes it was the Gulf Coast to Destin or maybe St. George island. Sometimes we ended up East, say the Georgia coast or the Outer Banks.  Great trips, but for this Midwesterner, the good times began miles before reaching the shore.  Driving South, signs began to appear.  Usually handwritten on a piece of plywood or heavy cardboard, they advertised a delicacy not found in the heartland:  Boiled Peanuts.  Big, deep pots were set up in gas stations, roadside stands or semi-rural front porches, all chock full of soft, salty peanuts in the shell and sold in styrofoam or paper cups.  I couldn’t get enough of them and always insisted on stopping.  Truth be told, everybody else in the car turned their noses up at them.  They maintained a peanut isn’t supposed to be soft.  Much as I tried to convince them to ditch their conceptions and appreciate this treat on its own terms, they could not be swayed.  To be fair, I didn’t argue too hard.  More for me.

It may just be nostalgia for the pageantry of the Southern road, but I’m always going to want to eat these out of a soggy paper cup, although there are recipes here and there that call for boiled peanuts (if they last that long). If you run out, I’m pretty sure I saw a sign for a roadside tent just a few miles down.

Recipe: Boiled Peanuts

Summary: Make sure you get fresh, green peanuts, if you can, and don’t look as this one as a recipe so much as a guideline. Some folks like them softer, some folks saltier. Keep tasting and you’ll get there.  From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook

Ingredients

  • 3 q Water
  • 3 T Salt
  • 8 c Fresh Green Peanuts in Shell

Instructions

  1. Bring water and salt to boil in a heavy pot over medium heat.
  2. Add peanuts and cook until soft to preference (1-2 hours).
  3. Remove from heat and let rest in water to allow salt to further soak into peanuts to taste.

Note: K: I pretty much never boil these on the stove.  I find it much more reliable and easier to control to cook them in a slow-cooker.  I just toss them in when I go to bed, and I wake up to perfect peanuts every time.  That they can sit there on ‘warm’ all day for snacking, or even while turned off until I can get home from work to deal with them just makes this method that much better.

Originally: Boiled Peanuts

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