My dad cooked three things: popcorn, coleslaw and boiled peanuts. He was married to a wonderful cook who had her own restaurant, so he never had to make anything else.
Dad was a produce salesman—that’s how he and my mother met—and eventually he bought all the produce for her at Mary Mac’s. He goes to the Georgia State farmer’s market where all the huge produce wholesale warehouses were, then visits “The Row,” or the rows of individual farmers’ stalls that were open to the public. If anyone had raw peanuts, he’d bring them home and boil them in a pressure cooker.
When he died in 1982 at the age of 73, mom kept his pressure cooker since it was one of a few things he ever touched in the kitchen. I have it now, but functions as a memento, not a machine.
I’ve never boiled a peanut in my life and I don’t know anyone who makes them at home. Hugh Acheson has a boiled peanut hummus on his menu at Empire State South. Otherwise, I only see them in big vats on the side of the road in the country, at farmer’s markets, or here at Serenbe in October when we celebrate the Georgia peanut harvest with Super Goober Day.
But if you’ve got raw peanuts, some water and a little time on your hands, the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook has a recipe from a man named John Martin Taylor. He uses freshly dug Valencia peanuts, which are in season from July to September. According to the cookbook, he says you can start with dried peanuts, “but their magic is lost.”
Makes 8 servings
- 3 quarts water
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 3 pounds (8 cups) freshly dug green peanuts in the shell, preferably Valencia
Bring the water and salt to a low boil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the peanuts and cook to your liking, 1 to 2 hours. I like the shell to become soft enough almost to be edible. Let the peanuts sit in the water off the heat until the desired degree of saltiness is reached.