Friday, August 14, 2009

Boiled Peanuts

ARE IN!!! Am beside myself with excitement. Do you know what this means? Do you??? It means we're close to fall, the end of 200 degree weather, the start of football games, closer to crazy trips to who-knows-where, David's wedding in October, and the final trips out on the boat.

I remember the first time I had boiled peanuts as a child. It was about 26 years ago on the front porch of a BBQ joint that is now an Italian restaurant on Lake Harbor Drive. Dad and I would spend Sunday afternoons with his sailplane club, but before we set off, we would have lunch there. It was divine. You ordered inside, where I remember the dark walls and counter were rough-hewn wood that smelled deliciously smoky, and there was a red, white, and blue cardboard placque on the counter in which patrons were encouraged to insert quarters. I couldn't read at the time, but Dad told me it was for a charity.

Once ordered, the gang and we would sit in the breeze under the fans on the shady front porch on picnic tables, surrounded by the same wonderful-smelling wood. Dad always ordered a pulled pork sandwich for me, but when I was really young I remember I would only eat the boiled peanuts. And a Sunkist. Only a Sunkist would do. Sunkist and boiled peanuts: doesn't get any better than that. My favorite trick was to eat the peanut meat, put the halves of the shell back together, and hand it to Dad as if it was whole. It looked whole to me.

Then we were off to go up in the sailplanes. That was a really neat experience. I'm told Dad raised me in a sailplane: he would take me up in his lap as an infant, and we would bond and enjoy each other's company. When I was old enough, he would put me in the front seat and steer from the back. I remember the initial gentle yank on the ground as the tow plane started up, the drag and slight heave as we left the earth, and how hard I had to pull to let go of the towing plane.

Once up and unhooked from the tow, it was very, very quiet up there. No engine noise, as there was no engine. The only sound was the wind and each other's voice. You could see brilliant sunshine and the sparkling reservoir. Dad remembers the minute I outgrew sailplanes as a child: apparently I told him, "I'm tired of this. All we do is go around in circles." Now as a grownup, I would cherish another flight.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Boiled peanuts.

I remember the first time I had boiled peanuts as an adult. I was with Mike in Florida, visiting his parents for the first time. Nervous was not the word: I was terrified. Mikey-Doo has always loved boiled peanuts, so his mom made some for his homecoming. I was astonished. I had only ever seen them at that BBQ place and on the side of the road, and who knows what kind of magic side-of-the-road chefs can produce. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, I asked Judy, "How did you make boiled peanuts?!?" To which she very politely replied (wondering what kind of idiot her son was dating, I'm sure), "Well, you put them in a pot and boil them. With salt."

Did I mention I was born blonde?

So here's how you make boiled peanuts, courtesy of Judy Peacock:

3-5 pounds green peanuts. Be sure to get green peanuts: they are available in the produce section of the Kroger, usually next to the watermelons, onions, and potatoes.
1/2 - 3/4 cup salt. I use kosher because it's less expensive.
A big pot.

  1. Put peanuts in pot.
  2. Cover with water so they have enough room to float and move around a little.
  3. Dump a lot of salt in there. Maybe 1/3 cup to start.
  4. Cover and bring to a boil.
  5. After about 45 minutes, pull one out with tongs, rinse with cold water, and check for texture and saltiness.
  6. It probably won't be salty enough. Here's where your cook's intuition comes in. I have never used a whole cup of salt for a batch of boiled peanuts. So as long as you don't go over a cup, put in as much as you think you need and taste every half hour or so. It's really a taste thing: Mike likes them salty.
  7. I boiled this last batch for a total of 2 1/2 hours. Think like a side-of-the-road chef and just leave them simmering until good and mushy.

I've tried all kinds of additions: oyster sauce, crab boil, Louisiana hot sauce. That was funny. The Louisiana hot sauce vaporized and left me coughing. When the cat started coughing, I realized I was about to hurt the both of us with the toxic fumes. Mike came home to a house with all windows and doors wide open on a 96 degree day. And I have found that hands-down the best seasoning it good old-fashioned salt.

The best way to preserve peanuts so you can have boiled peanuts during the winter and spring months is to freeze them green. I have heard a rumor of a place out from Hazlehurst where you can buy green peanuts by the bushel. If that comes to fruition this year, I'll buy the whole thing, put them in ziploc bags, and freeze them raw. When you're ready for freshed boiled goobers, just take them out of the ziploc straight to boiling water.

With salt.


L said...

Boiled Peanut Season? Best news I've heard all day! Can't wait to go to the grocery store now. Yum!


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