Boiled peanuts are a regional snack, popular in the Southeastern part of theUnited States. The most popular place to buy boiled peanuts is at roadside stands in the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and northern Florida. The peanuts are usually enjoyed with beer, sweet tea, or cola. Nobody is really sure when the tradition of boiling peanuts began, but it is believed it was as early as the Civil War. Food was scarce during the war, so soldiers would boil peanuts with salt, preserving them and killing bacteria. It also made it possible for soldiers to carry the peanuts on long journeys without concern for spoiling.
Using Raw Peanuts
The peanuts used for boiling are green or raw. Green does not mean the peanut is not brown; it just means it was recently harvested. Peanuts that are 90 to 100 days old are ideal for boiling. Green nuts are only available for part of the year, from May through November. Once you have purchased or cooked your own boiled nuts you need to eat them within a few days. After three or four days, the nuts develop a slimy coating and begin to smell.
Boiling peanuts is easy, but it takes a long time. Most fans of the snack agree the time it takes to boil the nuts is well worth the taste. Boiled peanut recipes vary, but it is best to start with the simplest version. Usually, people test the peanuts throughout the process until they are the preferred level of doneness.
Preparing Peantus for Boiling
Begin with four to five pounds of raw peanuts, still in their shells. Wash the peanuts in cold water until the water runs clean and then soak them for a half hour. Place the peanuts in a pot filled with four to six quarts of water. The water level should completely cover the nuts and about two to three inches more. Add a cup of salt for each gallon of water (four to six cups of salt). Place the pot over a high flame and heat to boiling. Once boiling, cover the peanuts and cook for four to seven hours.
You will want to stir the peanuts occasionally throughout the first four hours of cooking. After four hours, taste one of the nuts. You will want to taste every ten minutes or so after the first four hours to determine if more salt is needed. You can also check the texture of the peanuts. The level of tenderness is a personal preference, so when you like the taste of the peanuts, you can remove them from the water. Most people like a texture similar to dried beans or peas.
Storing Cooked Peanuts
Remove the nuts from the boiling water and drain. This should be done as soon as possible after the nuts are done cooking because the peanuts will continue to absorb the salt as they cool. The nuts can be enjoyed hot or cold. Some people refrigerate the peanuts and eat them chilled. You should wait until you are read to eat each nut before shelling them. Nuts can also be frozen and will keep indefinitely.