In keeping with the theme of recipes and summer favorites, I would like to spend this post talking about a southern delicacy that many have probably never heard of- the illustrious boiled peanut!
What exactly is a boiled peanut, you may ask? It is, in fact, a peanut in the shell, boiled in salty water. And it is delicious! This is a true southern staple, and has been consumed since the 1800’s. Here’s a little history about the boiled peanut:
Boiling peanuts has been a folk cultural practice in the south of the US since the 19th century, where they were originally called goober peas. In late August, when the peanut crops would come in, unsold and surplus peanuts would be prepared in a boiling, and extended families and neighbors would gather to share conversation and food. Like a fish fry, peanut boils have been organizing principles for social gatherings. Like okra, black-eyed peas, collard greens and pork barbecue, boiled peanuts are symbols of southern culture and cuisine.Flavorings such as ham hocks, hot sauce, Cajun seasonings or beer can be added to the boil.
The resulting food is a very soft peanut in the shell, invariably quite salty. The softened peanuts are easy to open. Often small, immature peanuts (called “pops”) are included, which have even softer shells and can be eaten in entirety. These tend to absorb more salt than the larger ones.
Uneaten peanuts should be stored in a refrigerator, as they can become slimy or moldy quite quickly without refrigeration. Boiled peanuts can be frozen, and later reheated in a microwave for out of season consumption.
Boiled peanuts can also be canned.
Raw peanuts in the shell are put in a large pot of very heavily salted water and boiled. This can be done inside on the stove or outside on a propane burner for a larger volume. Depending on the locality, some cooks use rock salt or standard table salt, or both. The boil can go on from four to seven hours or more, depending on quantity and the age of the peanut (green “raw” peanuts cook faster and tend to be better tasting), and the boilings will most often be of several gallons of water. Boiled peanuts are popular in some places where peanuts are common. Fully mature peanuts do not make good quality boiled peanuts; rather raw or “green” ones are used. “Raw” denotes peanuts in a semi-mature state, having achieved full size, but not being fully dried, as would be needed for roasting or peanut butter use. After boiling they take on a strong salty taste and become softer with the length of cooking, somewhat resembling a pea or bean, to which they are related. The most flavorful peanuts for boiling are the Valencia type. These are preferred in the United States, being grown in gardens and small patches throughout the South. Green Virginia type peanuts are also sometimes used.
Got all that? On your next trip down to our area, be sure to grab a bag and try out some boiled peanuts! You can find them at produce stands and in the grocery store!