The Art of Peanut Perfection

Boiled peanuts.

So I was cruising the aisles of the Piggly Wiggly (this is a grocery store) today when I remembered I needed some green onions. So I turned the cart around and made a b-line toward the produce department. After I picked a choice bunch of said onions, I headed back to the checkout and out of the corner of my eye, spied a barrel. This was not any barrel, but one topped with peanuts. And not any old, dry-roasted packaged peanuts, but fresh green peanuts. I thought, “oh boy!” and proceeded to fill a bag with a pound or so.

Now, this time of year is early for local peanuts and the ones I purchased today are from Florida. But seeing how that is only one state over (barely), I rationalized it is okay to buy just enough to satisfy my boiled peanut craving that has been flaring up over the last few weeks. So, as they now bubble and simmer in a heavy-bottom pot on the stove, I write this post almost giddy in anticipation of my briny treat, well ahead of June when our local SC peanut crop will be ready.

Fresh, green peanuts go into the pot for a salty, 4 hour "bath".

Boiled peanuts, pronounced “builled” peanuts (long on the “u” like the word ‘bull’) around these parts, should be cooked slowly for several hours. I would say 4 hours is the minimum. As far as salt goes, I tend to be a less is more type gal, as I am not one who salts anything and everything before I even taste it. Now my Mom loads on the salt and her peanuts are pretty darn good too, so I will state that one should start with a base amount and then salt to your own liking. They’ll continue to soak up the brine even after they’ve been cooked – if they last that long.

A peak in the pot finds the peanuts simmering away - won't be long now!

Boiled peanuts have become a sort of foodie fad of late. The Lee brothers, who hail from up the road in Charleston, have ridden to fame on the back of a peanut shell it seems. Well, and they wrote a cookbook that was named the ‘James Beard Cookbook of the Year’ in 2007 too. Even my current foodie-crush, Chef Sean Brock, serves boiled peanuts as an appetizer at his restaurant, Husk, that incidentally was voted 2011 Best New Restaurant by both Bon Appétit and Southern Living magazines.

The lowly boiled peanut has finally arrived, I suppose. Of course to me, this happened a long time ago. I ate them throughout my childhood and I most closely associate them now with good times. Like snacking on peanuts while fishing in the little jon boat with my daddy in the Congaree or  munching on them in the hammock on the back porch of the family beach house or later, while camping with friends in the forests of NC.

Boiled peanuts are truly THE road food snack of the South. Travel any off-the-beaten-track bi-way in SC, GA, AL or the Florida panhandle and you’ll find a peanut man (or woman) stirring a big billowing pot of peanuts. SC highways 11, 17 and 170 come to mind as does FL highway 98 below Tallahassee and GA highway 80 going out to Tybee Island.

Typical roadside peanut stand. "I brake for boiled peanuts"!

Stop and buy a bag…or three. Resistance is futile when it comes to riding in a car with a warm bag of boiled peanuts – go ahead and dig in ‘cause that first bag will be gone, baby gone, by the time you reach your destination. I guarantee that. And not stop? That would be worse, never admit that you passed up hot boiled peanuts on a road trip. That’s akin to passing up a cold beer on a sweltering August day after doing yard work or such – completely preposterous.

And speaking of preposterous, it would be silly for me to give step-by-step instructions for making your own boiled peanuts – it’s just really that easy. That being said, when you find that peanuts are available in your area grab a couple of pounds and give this a try:

Boiled Peanuts

  • Fresh, green peanuts – rinsed with water
  • Salt
  • Water

In a large heavy bottom pot with a lid, place peanuts and cover with water. There should be at least 1 inch of space at the top of the pot. The peanuts will float but you should be able to stir them easily without inadvertently slinging water or peanuts out of the pot. Stir in salt – I use 1 tablespoon per pound of peanuts. Bring to a boil and stir. Turn heat down to a low simmer, loosely cover and allow to cook for about 4 hours.

Check the pot about every 30-45 minutes, stirring well each time. After 4 hours, taste a couple of peanuts to see if they are done. They should be solid but soft without any ‘bite’. If they are not, continue cooking another half hour and check again. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool in the briny water …or remove from the pot and start eating! Some people like to add hot sauce and other accoutrements – but my preference is the original, no extra accessories required …pass the paper towels!

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3 thoughts on “The Art of Peanut Perfection

  1. Pingback: Cool and crisp summer salad – Two Beans and a Little Peanut! |

  2. Can’t wait to try this recipe. I love boiled peanuts but you dont find them on the side of the road here in Ky like you do down South. I work with your Sister Julie, and the entire dept has decided that you need to send us some samples! 😉 Will be sharing your site on my Facebook page.

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