Boiled Peanuts: The Edamame of the South

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I've been told that boiled peanuts are an acquired taste. I wouldn't know, because I've loved them for too long to remember. I can't picture a day at the beach or the lake without a bowl of boiled peanuts, the contents dwindling as the pile of shells on the sand grows. We usually eat them in the summer, possibly because that's the only time I can stay close to the stove long enough to make them. They make a great snack, or a light meal if you just can't leave your beach chair to make dinner.

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I can't help it. I need all my non-southern friends to try them, so I'll make boiled peanuts anywhere. When I was in Montréal for college, I boiled a pot for a group of friends, promising them plenty of beer if they would just try them. Serge, in his lilting accent Québécois, made this observation.

"Ben ouais, I do not exactly like them. They are disgusting, but I cannot stop eating them."

Of course, I disagree. They are not disgusting, not at all. They are, however, addictive. Over the years, I've learned to tell newbies to think of them as similar to steamed, salted edamame in the pod.

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The smell of boiling peanuts says summer to me. I learned how to make them from my Aunt Kathy, but I've added my own touches. The recipe is simple:

  • Rinse a bunch of green peanuts.
  • Boil a huge pot of water, adding plenty of salt and some Old Bay Seasoning.
  • Dump the peanuts into the boiling water and bring it to a boil again.
  • Let them boil, covered, for a while, at least three hours. You might want to start just after lunch, because...
  • At bedtime, turn off the burner and let them soak overnight. (This is Aunt Kathy's secret, and it guarantees juicy, delicious peanuts with plenty of flavor.)

I also add a splash or two of balsamic vinegar just before I take them off the heat. Some people add beer to the cooking liquid, but I'd rather just drink the beer. You'll know they're done when it takes almost no effort to open the shell.

Boiled peanuts pair well with light beer, a crisp glass of vinho verde or a big tumbler of Housewife Sangria.

Have you tried boiled peanuts? If not, will you just keep an open mind? What foods are common where you live that seem bizarre outside the region?

(Images: Anne Postic)

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Main, Snack, Summer

Anne Postic writes about cooking for her family on The Kitchn. She lives in Columbia, South Carolina with her husband and three very handsome sons. She loves talking cooking, travel, parenting and art, though not necessarily in that order.

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