"I'm in the mountains----home to boiled peanuts and apple cider. Surely everything is congenial and kind here. This man isn't on "America's Most Wanted"." ~ Deena in How Sweet It Is (Bethany House, 2009)
If you haven't seen a sign for boiled peanuts for sale, I doubt you've been in North Carolina's mountain regions. Sometimes the spelling is a bit different, true, but whether it's boiled p-nuts or boiled peenuts, it all means the same: Get out of your car and get yourself a bag. This Southern delicacy cooks inside the bubbling container of water and is enjoyed by folks of all ages from May to November.
Most likely what you'll see when you pull over to park at a roadside store is a man standing beside a 55-gallon drum, stirring peanuts with a long utensil. When you say you'd like some, he'll scoop up a bunch with something that looks like a circular wire basket McDonald's uses to cook french fries in. He'll place your order inside a brown paper bag. He might even give you an extra bag for the shells. If you plan on eating the peanuts during the rest of your ride, you'll probably need that extra bag.
So, what exactly are boiled peanuts? Ah, let me tell you about this part of Southern cuisine and culture. Although I must confess that I didn't grow up on these offerings and had never heard of nor had a boiled peanut until I was married and my husband and I stopped at a rickety fruit and vegetable stand somewhere outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Boiled peanuts are "green" (raw) peanuts that have spent a considerable amount of time in boiling salted water. Yes, they're damp, soft, sometimes drippy. To eat, remove the shell. Then pop one into your mouth and chew. These are best when eaten outside so Mama doesn't complain about empty shells all over the living room carpet. Many claim you need a bottle of cola or a glass of sweet tea to drink along with these nuts.
You can purchase boiled peanuts in cans at grocery stores. You can even make your own. Here's what you need----a large pot, water, plenty of salt and about a pound of raw peanuts, known as green. For every gallon of water, you need 1/4 cup of salt. Some add cajun spices to their water or a combination of salt and seafood spices. Bring the water and peanuts to a boil and continue to let boil for four to six hours. Then turn off the burner and let the pot cool as the peanuts continue to absorb the salty water. You might want to try a test batch first and then after eating them decide whether you need to add more or less salt the next time.
Keep in mind that boiled peanuts you buy fresh from a country store or make yourself, don't have a long shelf life at all. They need to be consumed within two days of purchase or they'll taste like something the cat dragged in from the barn.
And if you are really desiring to get into the flavor of the land, you can't say boiled peanuts in any sort of drawl but Southern. To perfect this, keep your mouth closed a little and then let these words roll around inside your mouth before letting them out: Boll'd peanuts.
For more boiled peanut experiences, check out these videos of all sorts of encounters at Boiled Peanut World.