Boiled peanuts. Oh, the memories they bring back of sitting around my grandmothers kitchen table with a large bowl of them in the middle of the table and a paper towel in front of me on which to put the empty shells. I would have the salty peanut juice running down my arms to my elbows, but stopping to clean myself up was not conceivable. The object was to crack the shells and shovel the soft peanuts into my mouth as fast as I could go. Everyone else at the table was doing the same thing and the unspoken rule was that everyone’s empty shell pile had to be the same size. Otherwise, it meant that you were eating more than your fair share and that was pretty much an invitation to leave the table until you could muster better manners.
I was shopping at a local Asian grocery store a couple of weeks ago and as I was browsing through the fresh vegetable area looking at all of the interesting fruits and vegetables, I spied what looked like green peanuts. No! Really? I snagged a bag of them and cradled them in my hands, inspecting. Then I held the mesh bag up to my nose and inhaled. Oh. My. Gosh. It was really and truly green peanuts and they were the prettiest ones I had ever seen; large and fat. What in the heck were they doing in an Asian market? I got all giddy with excitement; I was going to have boiled peanuts!!!!!!
Fresh, new, raw peanuts are referred to as “green peanuts“. The verbiage can be confusing because the peanuts are brown in color, not green. Green in this sense means fresh or new and not dried or seasoned or cooked, the same way freshly cut wood is referred to as being green…not that green peanuts taste anything like green wood; I was just trying to explain the use of the word green.
Once I left the South, I thought I’d never see a green peanut again. I had no idea that Asian markets sold peanuts in the Autumn. I did a little internet research and found that boiled peanuts are apparently common in Chinese culture, however the seasonings are different from those used in the American South. The most common seasoning in the South is salt. Just ordinary salt–no kosher salt, no sea salt, no pink Himalayan salt, no gray salt…now that I think about it, smoky salt might be nice sometime…naaaw…cost prohibitive.
The peanuts are cooked in one of two ways: boiled or pressure cooked. My grandmother always used a pressure cooker and so do I because it speeds up the process significantly. To tell you the truth, it’s Honey Buns who does the peanut cooking at our house. He’s not Southern, but after I introduced him to boiled peanuts a quadrillion years ago, he claimed all peanut cooking rights for himself.
In the past we have had to use raw, dried peanuts when we have made boiled peanuts. We soak them overnight in their shells, the same as with dried beans. The next day, Honey Buns pressure cooks them in salted water. Some people like their peanuts quite salty, but I prefer mine to be a little lower on the salt-o-meter. If you are lucky enough to have green peanuts, then skip the overnight soaking.
- 2-3 pounds raw, new peanuts (green peanuts)
- 2/3 cup salt
- enough water to completely cover the peanuts
Instructions for pressure cooking green peanuts:
- Wash green peanuts well in cool water. The shells hang on to a lot of dirt because peanuts grow underground. Trust me, you don’t want dirt in your cooking water.
- Place peanuts in a pressure cooker and add enough cool water to completely cover them.
- Stir in the salt then place the lid on the pressure cooker. Turn the heat on high and cook at 10 pounds of pressure for 45 minutes. If you are using a pressure cooker with a gauge, start timing after the indicator on the gauge reaches 10 pounds. If you are using a pressure cooker with a pressure regulator (jiggler), then start timing when the pressure regulator starts jiggling. You can lower the heat so that the pressure regulator only jiggles a few times per minute.
- At the end of the 45 minutes, turn off the heat and allow the pressure to drop of its own accord.
- If the peanuts are not soft enough or salty enough, leave the lid off of the pressure cooker and boil the peanuts until they are to your personal liking.
Instructions for using raw, dry peanuts:
- Put peanuts in cooking pot and cover with cool water. Allow to soak overnight.
- The next day, drain off water and refill pot with enough fresh water to completely cover the peanuts.
- Add salt as above.
- Pressure cook for an hour at 10 pounds pressure. Turn off heat and allow the pressure of it own accord.
- Follow # 5 above.
UPDATE 11/12/15: For canning boiled peanuts, please visit this link from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.