I was first exposed to the boiled peanut while on a short trip to Charleston, SC during college. Some friends and I were their to interview for summer internships when one of the interviewing design firms asked if we had been down to Marion Square off of Calhoun Street. Being “damn Yankees” from Virginia, we had not, and inquired about its significance. With a wink and a nod, we were encouraged to check it out, especially between classes. It sounded like the perfect place to visit for four twenty-one year olds. So we walked the few blocks down to the square and amongst the beautiful architecture, old town history, and yes attractive college ladies, we found a small farmer’s market and an old man selling peanuts in a bag of brownish-red juice, holding a small sign that said “boiled nuts.” I gave them a try and could not get enough!
I would not have the chance to try them again until the following fall. Again, I was traveling south through The Palmetto State with a couple of friends to attend the Virginia Tech vs Clemson football game when on the road to the stadium it was vendor after vendor selling, you guessed it, boiled peanuts! I finally convinced my friend who was driving, and reluctant to stop, that he should get gas now rather than fight the traffic after the game. When he pulled into the station, I bolted down the road, back to the last stand we passed and bought 2 lbs of these tasty treats.
Now, this was becoming ridiculous, the fact that I had to drive at least 4 hours to find a bag of water soaked nuts. So I decided to try making them for myself, but being from Maryland I put my own twist on the seasoning. You see, the flavors I found in the South Carolina and in subsequent years, Georgia and Louisiana, have been essentially plain, BBQ, or Cajun (the best). But home grown Marylanders will agree that Old Bay Seasoning can be used on just about everything so why not a nut? Well, that’s what I did and I find them not only delicious but addictive!
3 lbs of RAW peanuts in the shells
3 cans of Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 cup Hot Sause (optional)
Fill your sink with cold water enough to cover all the nuts. Allow the nuts to soak for 30 min while agitating occasionally with your hands. This will help to start softening the shells but also removes excessive soil that may still be attached. Then place the nuts into a 2 gal pot. Add the Old Bay, hot sauce and fill with water to a point still low enough to avoid boiling over. Also, the addition of the hot sauce helps to give a little extra kick. This recipe is plenty flavorful without it. Bring to a high boil then reduce heat to a low boil for 4-6 hours. Add additional water as needed to prevent boiling dry. When done, the shells should be easily “pop-able” and the nuts soft but not mushy. After boiling, allow the nuts to remain in the same pot until cool enough to handle but still warm.
To eat: Hold the nut in your fingers so the “lips” are facing you (“butt” end is where the nut was attached to the plant). Turn the shell so the lips are vertical and bite down so that the shell pops open. Suck out the juice and proceed to split the shell and eat the nuts.
Left overs can be refrigerated but should always be stored in plenty of seasoned water from the pot. In fact, the next day(s) after boiling and storing usually allow the flavor to really penetrate and the snack only gets better.
photo above of raw peanuts soaking in cold water