Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Boiled Peanuts


I simply can not remember a summer of my childhood (or adulthood for that matter…) without boiled peanuts. Make that – I can not remember any time in my ENtire life without boiled peanuts – and, no, I am not being dramatic.


Just the words alone – boiled peanuts – makes my mouth start to water and get set for that salty delight with its juice just running all down my arms while nearly inhaling this southern delicacy.

What is a boiled peanut, you ask?

It’s not just one. You do not boil “a” peanut. You boil masses of them – for days. That’s the only way you get good boiled peanuts. Not to mention all the salt – great day! I’m swelling just at the thought.

I specifically remember one summer – I think I was about 14 – when one of our cousins and his wife were expecting their first baby. She craved boiled peanuts. We spent that entire summer playing canasta and eating boiled peanuts. It’s a wonder the baby didn’t weigh 20 lbs. and come out demanding a sackful!

Now somehow, South Carolina has claimed boiled peanuts as their official snack. Well, that’s okay and everything – South Carolina being a southern neighbor and all – but, great day in the morning, Y’all – peanuts are “the” crop of Georgia……….don’t get me wrong, Y’all, I genuinely love my southern neighbors, but who was asleep at the wheel that day?

Meanwhile, in the event you should want to cook up your own boiled peanuts rather than buy them at Bubba’s roadside, here’s the recipe:

Boiled Peanuts

INGREDIENTS:

5 Pounds of Raw (green) Peanuts (rinsed several times with cold water)

1 Cup (heaping) of salt

Largest stock pot you own. If you don’t own one – you will need to buy one that will hold 5lbs of peanuts. [There are some (lucky) people who actually cook them in those very large cast iron pots outside over an open fire. Did I mention they were lucky?]

INSTRUCTIONS:

After thoroughly rinsing the raw peanuts, place them in the stock pot. Add the salt. Fill the pot, completely covering the peanuts. In fact, you need to just fill the pot all the way up to the rim with cold water.

The peanuts will all float up to top of the water. Use a slatted spoon and push them down in the water to get them soaked a good bit and to stir the salt around evenly distributing it throughout the peanuts and water.

Put your burner on medium to medium high heat, bringing the water to a boil. Once the water boils rapidly, reduce your heat to a strong simmer.

Boil the peanuts for no less than three (3) days – maybe even four (4) days.
Seriously.

Continue to add back water as you cook the peanuts and see the water level drop from evaporation, etc. Stir the peanuts periodically throughout the cooking event.

DISCLAIMER: Now I am well aware of all the famous chefs and southern cooks on television and the Internet, published in books and what not and so forth claiming “cook the peanuts for several hours….”, but I have never eaten a boiled peanut in my life that was cooked and ready to eat in less than two days. Peanuts boiled for only a day or so are, well, crunchy.

And while I do not want to stir up a great debate over the length of time it takes to properly boil peanuts, the fact of the matter is, boiled peanuts are not crunchy.

As the peanuts continue to boil, they will cook down. “Cooking down” is a phrase that means the food is soaking up the water and salt – I guess like getting saturated in it – and they will no longer float. The water will also begin to get dark - as will the peanuts (they’ll get heavy and soggy, too, yum!).

Sometime during the second day of boiling, you need to be sampling the peanuts (my favorite part). You need to determine if they are still too crunchy, if you need more water and most definitely…..if you need more salt.

I don’t care how many times you boil a batch – the salt doesn’t always absorb the same way – so it is a must that you sample and adjust accordingly.

By the end of day three (if not somehow before), the peanuts are ready to eat.

They are best if eaten on either the front or back porch – and eat them hot to warm! But they are also good cold out of the frig the next morning, too!

I’ve been told that you can freeze them. Who eva` has any left-ova`?

In the meantime, if you’re not up to a three day cooking event and marathon, you can almost always find good boiled peanuts year round at nearly every festival and fair event across the south. Summertime fruit and vegetable stands will usually have them as well.

Eat ‘em hot and enjoy! They are to die for!

Y'all ~ I need a water pill!!

Harriette K. Jacobs
Copyright © 2006
All Rights Reserved.

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