The satisfaction of a batch of boiled peanuts | Column | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | July 29, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: July 26, 2017 at 1:00 pm
I woke up Sunday with puffy fingers and swollen eyes. I smiled at my moon face in the mirror, because what happened Saturday night that made me a blimp 12 hours later was worth it.
What happened was boiled peanuts, and I regret nothing.
That’s because boiled peanuts are worth it. A mess of boiled peanuts in a paper sack is brinier than a Salty Dog or a bag of pretzel sticks, and I can eat a pound in 30 minutes. My husband has timed me.
I don’t love boiled peanuts because I’m a daughter of the South — I actually prefer Miracle Whip to Duke’s mayo and never drink iced tea. I love boiled peanuts because they are satisfying in the way an unexpected Saturday afternoon nap is satisfying, the way walking through wet sand in bare feet is satisfying. It’s a deep, primal reward, to shell and eat peanuts that taste faintly of soil and sea.
I admit boiled peanuts can be an acquired taste. Some friends have tried and failed to like them. I don’t judge, since I feel the same way about oysters.
Part of the problem may be that there is no graceful way to eat boiled peanuts. You eat them by squeezing open the damp, perfectly aligned shell. Discard the top and marvel at how the red, glistening legumes inside fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Then raise the shell and flick the peanuts into your mouth. Repeat several dozen times.
If you do it right, your chin will be shiny, your hands will be wet to the wrist and your fingertips will shrivel like those of a child who stayed in the tub too long.
By the way, boiled peanuts are not parched. They are not roasted. They are not fried. They are by-golly boiled, preferably in a battered roasting pan set across two red-hot stove burners. (You could cook boiled peanuts in a pressure cooker or Crockpot. You could also eat a chocolate Easter bunny in October, but it would feel all kinds of wrong. Stick with a lidded pot on the stove.)
My dad could boil peanuts like a master. He used only green peanuts, which are in season until around October. Green peanuts are moist and perishable, so buy ‘em and boil ‘em. Dried raw peanuts can be stored for months, but require a longer boil to make them tender.
Dad’s recipe: Pour two gallons of water in roaster, add a cup of salt and, I quote, “enough peanuts to fill the pot.” Put the lid on the roaster and bring contents to a rolling boil. Reduce heat slightly and boil for two hours before you start sampling. For firm peanuts, that should do it. For softer nuts, boil at least another hour, and keep adding water and salt to taste.
You can find canned boiled peanuts in the grocery store, but purists avoid those. You may also see fresh boiled peanuts offered for sale in Cajun and barbecue flavors. That’s like a roadside stand selling maple-flavored tomatoes. Why mess with perfection?
If you think I’m batty about boiled peanuts, check out www.boiledpeanutworld.com. There’s a boiling blog, a green peanut vs. dried peanut page, a 600-word recipe for cooking peanuts, and a biography of George Washington Carver, who used peanuts to make many products, from soap to lamp oil.
The site doesn’t say so, but rumor has it Carver preferred his peanuts boiled and briny. I’d salute this great man, but my hands are wrist deep in a bag of… you know.
(Julie R. Smith, who learned not to drink beer with boiled peanuts, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)