In Praise of Boiled Peanuts

My mother brought me four pounds of green (a.k.a. raw) peanuts in theirs shells up from South Carolina. Which tickles me to no end, because it means we got to make peanuts the right way today: by boiling them in brine. Boiled peanuts are one of the great staples of my Southern childhood and upbringing, a tasty treat that you can generally find at any roadside stand once you get into the parts of the deep South that haven’t been tainted by Northerners, carpetbagging into town with their stinking dry roasted peanuts or (even worse) honey-roasted granola nut clusters. Why would someone do that to the noble peanut?

You need but three ingredients to make boiled peanuts. (1) Green peanuts, (2) Tap water, and (3) Salt. Don’t use any fancy pants, imported Basque hand-crushed, sun-dried sel de mer. Use Morton’s Iodized. When it rains, it pours. Generic store-brand is fine too. Likewise bottled water. Do not use it. You should fill your pot from your tap. Or your garden hose, if it will reach your kitchen. Garden hose water has minerals in it. They’re good for you.

And don’t put any other ridiculous flavors in the pot! Last time I was down in Florida, we stopped at a gas station that had boiled peanuts for sale . . . but they were flavored! Cajun! Jalapeno! Teriyaki! ABOMINATIONS! I will guarantee you this gas station was owned or managed by somebody from the North. Northerners always like to mess with or appropriate our classic Southern recipes. I was glad when the Latham Krispy Kreme failed, and I never went to it, because Krispy Kreme’s do not belong anywhere north of the North Carolina-Virginia border. Same with Cheerwine. (Click the link to learn how Northern hoarders are stifling the supply in the Carolinas). And boiled peanuts properly come in only one flavor: salted.

So, anyway, I digress. And I repeat the secret formula for emphasis: peanuts, tap water, cheap iodized salt. For four pounds of peanuts I used about two-thirds of the Morton’s Salt container shown in the picture. Most boiled peanut connoisseurs would consider my peanuts under-salted accordingly, since they don’t suck the fluid out of your cheeks and soft palate. I boiled the peanuts and the salt in a covered pot for about three hours. Most boiled peanut connoisseurs would consider my peanuts a little firm, accordingly, since they still have just a smidge of fibrous matter left in them, and don’t dissolve in your mouth in a gentle little kiss of salty goodness.

Eating boiled peanuts is a succulent and decadent affair, much like oysters on the half-shell. Good green peanuts (like these) are much larger than the nasty, dry, disgustingly crunchy things that grocery stores call peanuts up here. You crack the shells gently along their seam, and slurp the oily, salty brine out before it drips on your lap, then use your prehensile lips to pull the nut meat itself out of the shells. Discarded shells are communally collected in a shell bowl at the middle of the table, and a contented silence fits the room as everyone slurps their way through the pile of boiled peanuts, pound by pound, no one talking, because if they did, someone else would get ahead of them and eat more peanuts.

You Northerners don’t know what you’re missing. Dry roasted peanuts? Pah!

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