Southern Boiled Peanuts
Fresh peanuts seem to occupy a space between snack food and a habit, like chewing tobacco. As any diehard boiled peanut fan can attest, the salty, wet little beans inspire your mind to take a lazy walk while your hand shuttles between bag and mouth and your teeth do the chewing.” –Matt & Ted Lee, The Lee Bros. Southern Cooking
Boiled peanuts can be a bit disconcerting upon first encounter, not unlike wondering who licked them all before you got there. But once you get over the fact that roasting isn’t the peanut’s only path to the snack bowl, they can become very addicting. They were definitely the conversation starter at our last dinner party.
Peanuts, just one of the South’s favorite legumes, are easy and kind of fascinating to make, especially if you’ve never done it before. Un-roasted peanuts found on grocery store shelves are not raw, they are “sun-dried in the shell to remove enough moisture to make them shelf-stable.” Raw peanuts, or green peanuts, freshly dug from the ground smell like damp hay and taste sort of starchy, sweet and green. They are highly perishable, so if you can’t find them locally, order from a reputable source for a quick delivery.
I ordered a couple pounds from the Lee Brother’s website, although there are several online sources (links below). Rinse them, brine overnight, and slowly simmer until tender — that’s it. Pert near the same as cooking any other legume.
Fresh Boiled Peanuts
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
2 pounds raw peanut in the shell
Brine: 1/2 cup kosher salt & 2 gallons water
Cook: 1 cup kosher salt & 2 gallons water
To make the brine, dissolve 1/2 cup kosher salt in 2 gallons of cool water in a large bucket or stockpot. Add rinsed peanuts & weigh them down with a dinner plate. Let soak in fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
Discard soaking liquid and fill pot with 2 gallons of fresh water and remaining 1 cup salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium-low, cover & cook at a low boil until peanuts are very soft, about 5-8 hours. Keep an eye on the water level, adding a cup or so if it goes below the original level.
Tip: when the peanuts have boiled for 3 hours, sample them to check the texture and saltiness. Allow a peanut to cool, then crack open the shell to get at the kernels inside. If you find them too salty, remove some brine with a ladle or small pot and replace it with an equal amount of fresh water. If peanuts are not salty enough, add salt in 1/4 cup increments, turn off the heat, and let them soak for an hour to absorb the salt. If the peanuts are too crunchy, boil on. It can take as long as 12 hours if you prefer them mushroom-soft. Sample them every hour.
When peanuts are cooked to your satisfaction, turn off heat and cool for an hour. Drain. Eat immediately or store (in the shell) in the refrigerator for up to 7 days or several months in the freezer.
If pressed for time, the soaking step isn’t essential, but it does reduce the cooking time by a couple of hours and helps to ensure peanuts cook more thoroughly and uniformly. The salt in the soaking liquid keeps yeasts and molds from developing overnight.