Boiled Peanuts – the Southern Snack Food
Boiled peanuts are a traditional snack food in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, northern Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi (I have heard that Texans also enjoy this custom). They are an acquired taste, but according to southerners, they are totally addictive.
Did you known that the “ed” in boiled peanuts is silent? Often signs will say Boil P-Nuts.
Reading: how to say boiled peanuts
Boiled peanuts are green or raw nuts that are boiled in salty water for hours outdoors over a fire. The shells turn soggy, and the peanuts take on a fresh, legume flavor. A green peanut is not green in color, just freshly harvested. It takes ninety to a hundred days to grow peanuts for boiling, and they are available only during May through November throughout the southern states. One of the drawbacks of boiled peanuts is that they have a very short shelf life unless refrigerated or frozen. If you leave them out on the kitchen counter for 3 to 4 days, they become slimy and smelly!
From May through November, all over the south, you will see roadside stands – ranging from woodsheds to shiny trailers – offering fresh boiled peanuts. Sometimes they are hard to open with your fingers, and you must resort to using your teeth, but according to most people, they are worth the trouble.
Southerners will also tell you that boiled peanuts should always be accompanied by a beer, sweet tea, or a soft drink (Coca Cola). Traditionally they are eaten outside where it does not matter if wet shells are tossed or spit on the ground.
History of Boiled Peanuts:
No one knows just why southerners started boiling peanuts or who was the first to boil them. However, it is believed that boiled peanuts have been a southern institution since at least the Civil War (1861-1865), when Union General William T. Sherman (1820-1891) led his troops on their march through Georgia. As a result of General Sherman’s campaign in Georgia, the Confederacy was split in two and deprived of much needed supplies.
Contemporary writings are full of complaints of lack of bread and meat. The great concern of the Confederate government was to feed the army. When troops of the Confederacy were without food, peanuts were an important nutritional source. Since cooking facilities were scarce, soldiers roasted the peanuts over campfires or boiled them. It seems to be lost in history as to who came up with the idea of adding salt to the peanuts when boiling them. What they were doing by boiling in salt, is an ancient preservation technique. It was discovered that these boiled peanuts would keep and not spoil in their kits for up to seven day. The salt works as a preservative, and the boiling kills impurities and bacteria. This produced a high protein ration that could be carried by the soldier. As salt was also scarce during the Civil War, history doesn’t tell us how the confederate soldiers had enough salt to use, unless salt meat, a large part of the army ration, was used somehow.
Confederate soldiers also adopted peanuts as a cheap coffee substitute along with parched rye, wheat, corn, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, chicory, and cotton seed. Some history books note that Confederate soldiers from Georgia were known as “goober grabbers.”It was during the slave-trading years of the 17th and 18th centuries that the peanut was first brought to the southeastern United States, and for a long time it was assumed that the peanut had originated in Africa. However, peanuts actually originated in Brazil and Peru.
Salted Peanuts and Coca Cola:
How did this combination of salted peanuts and Coke get started? According to Southerners, the thing was to get a bottle of Coke and a pack of salted peanuts from the vending machine, dump the peanuts into the bottle, drink, and then eat the Coke-soaked salty peanuts.
Southerners in the United States have a unique way of enjoying salted peanuts. Combining the sweet, ice-cold goodness of Coca-Cola with the salty crunch of peanuts is a practice that goes back for generations and brings back fond memories for Southerners of all ages. According to John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance (an organization documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South).
Edge believes the combo was likely born of country store commerce. Think of Coke and peanuts as a prototype fast-food for the 20th century South. Although there is no written record, the first package of peanuts may have been poured into a glass bottle of Coke as early as the 1920s. Packaged, already shelled peanuts from Planters, Lance and Tom’s began showing up at country stores and filling stations where the familiar contour bottle of Coke was already being sold.
2006 – On May 1, 2006, Gov. Mark Sanford came to York County and officially signed into law, H.4585, to make the boiled peanut South Carolina’s official state snack food. Tom Stanford, a Winthrop University graduate, came up with the idea in a government class because he likes boiled peanuts:
SECTION 1. The General Assembly finds that boiled peanuts are a delicious and popular snack food that are found both in stores and roadside stands across the State, and this unique snack food is defined as peanuts that are immersed in boiling water for at least one hour while still in the shell. The General Assembly further finds that this truly Southern delicacy is worthy of designation as the official state snack food.
Boiled Peanuts Recipe – How To Boil Green Peanuts:
Judging from the many variations on recipes for boiled peanuts, there appears to be no wrong way to boil green peanuts. The important thing is the many tastings needed to determine when they are done. You must taste test the boiled peanuts for saltiness and firmness, as some people prefer soft nuts to firmer ones.
4 to 5 pounds green peanuts in shell* 4 to 6 quarts water 1 cup plain salt per gallon of water
* Only use peanuts that are green (uncured). Not the color green, but farm fresh harvested peanuts which are called green peanuts. These green peanuts are available from grocery stores, food distributors, and farmers markets, during the growing season in the South. The peanuts must not be roasted or already cooked or dried.
Wash unshelled peanuts thoroughly in cold water until water runs clear (removing loose soil and sprouts, stems, weeds, and leaves); then soak in cool, clean water for approximately 30 minutes before cooking.
In a large heavy pot, place soaked peanuts and cover completely with water. Stir to “settle” the peanuts. Add enough water to cover the peanuts by 2 inches or more.
Add 1 cup of salt per gallon of water used. Other spices or seasonings (such as shrimp or crab boil, Cajun seasoning, chili powder, and other strong spices) may be added at this point, if desired.
Bring water to a boil and then reduce the heat and let the peanuts simmer, covered, for approximately 4 hours (may take longer), stirring occasionally, and then taste. Add additional water as needed to keep the peanuts covered.
Taste again in 10 minutes, both for salt and texture. Keep cooking and tasting until the peanuts reach desired texture (when fully cooked, the texture of the peanut should be similar to that of a cooked dry pea or bean). To check whether they are done, pull 1 or 2 peanuts out of the pot and crack them open. When they are soft, they are done. If they are still slightly crunchy, they are not done yet, If they are not salty enough, leave them in the salted water and turn off the heat.
NOTE: The cooking time of boiled peanuts varies according to the maturity of the peanuts used and the variety of peanuts. The cooking time for a “freshly pulled” or green peanut is shorter than for a peanut that has been stored for a time.
Remove from heat and drain peanuts after cooking or they will absorb salt and become over salted.
Peanuts may be eaten hot or at room temperature, or chilled in the refrigerator and eaten cold, shelling as you eat them. The peanuts may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one (1) week.
Freezing boiled peanuts: Prepare peanuts as indicated above. Drain, allow to cool, and freeze in airtight containers. They will keep indefinitely.
Canning Boiled Peanuts: Prepare peanuts and brine the same as for boiling for immediate use. Pack peanuts into sterilized jars to within one-half inch of the top, using equal weights of peanuts and hot brine (212F). Partially submerge containers in upright position in boiling water for 10 minutes. Seal while hot and process 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. Cool containers in water, label, and store away from heat.