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The Beauty in Boiled Peanuts

My husband MTM is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up eating things like frozen custard and cheese curds and Friday Fish Fry. Amazingly, he is a hot, slender man in spite of that early diet.

On the other hand, I have never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line. While I love to get out of the South, I would probably spontaneously combust if I tried to live anywhere else on earth. My Southern genes would likely attack themselves trying to recreate the hot, humid Hell I’ve always lived in.

I grew up eating all the usual Southern fried suspects – fried chicken; BBQ (vinegar base only – everything else is crap); shrimp and grits; fried okra; fluffy biscuits. I could go on and on and on.

Boiled peanuts have to be at the top of my list of things that make me feel Southern. Hot out of the pot, their salty goodness is next-to-impossible to top. When the hot water runs down my arms and I’m covered in wet peanut shells, I am always supremely happy. I cannot fathom anyone else feeling differently about something so decadent.

Only MTM cilantros boiled peanuts. In fact, one of the biggest arguments in our marriage occurred at a Charleston RiverDogs game over the issue of peanuts. He wanted roasted; I demanded boiled. A stalemate ensued as we purchased enough peanuts to feed our entire stadium section – mine boiled; his roasted.

What was worse, we tore into them at once, loudly proclaiming with mouths-full-of-peanuts why one selection was superior to the other. That MTM eats his roasted peanuts SHELLS AND ALL only added to the dramatic impact of the escalating carnage. I mean, I had never in my whole Southern life seen another human being eat a peanut shell. WHAT do they teach people about eating in Milwaukee?

Our dapper friend Ray Huff quietly came over, sat down next to me, pointedly looked at MTM, and started eating my boiled peanuts with me. “Some people just don’t get Southern,” he said conspiratorially.

Maybe so. But everyone should get boiled peanuts.

When I last made boiled peanuts, I did it this way:

Bring water to a boil in a large, deep pot. Add enough salt to the water to make it briny, anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 cup. The amount of salt is contingent upon how salty you want them. I prefer less salty, but some people prefer more. Stir to dissolve.

Wash 4 – 5 pounds of raw peanuts, leaving the shells on. When the water boils, place the peanuts in the water. Cover, stirring occasionally, and let boil for at least 3 hours, though I prefer the peanuts very soft, which usually takes at least 3 1/2 hours.

Remove from water and let cool just enough to be able to not burn your fingers when you rip into them.

51 Comments Post a comment
  1. Boiled peanuts are the best. Southern caviar! And Timbo’s peanuts out Hwy 61 has the best. His cajun boiled peanuts, made with jalapenos and no cilantro, are one of my favorite foods. I have had to deliver them to such a varied crowd as my nephew in Tennessee and Jimmy Buffett. Yes, the king of all parrot heads loves boiled peanuts.

    Now shells. We all know peanut shells are not meant to be eaten. That is just wrong! I know one person who, when she was a child, would shell a peanut, throw away the seed nut and promptly eat the shell. We all knew right from the start that she was just nuts.

    So Andra, revel in your love of boiled peanuts. And just look at MTM and shake your head knowingly. Nice thing is that in the South we are very tolerant of the mentally challenged in our families. Just give him a rocking chair on the porch and refer to him as “Dear MTM” or “MTM, bless his heart”….

    July 30, 2010
    • I love boiled peanuts with the perfect amount of salt, but I will have to try the cajun ones. I’ve never had them, and I will definitely go to Timbo’s since they don’t contain cilantro.

      I guess shaking my head at poor MTM is preferable to questioning his brightness because he doesn’t like boiled peanuts. He can’t even watch me eat them. He abhors them that much.

      And, I’m glad to know there’s some other weird person in the world who eats the shells. I really thought MTM would be alone on that one. Yuck.

      July 30, 2010
  2. Lou Mello #

    I’m on MTM’s side on this one, I guess it’s a “where you’re from” thing since I grew up in Columbus, OH, which is probably a lot like Milwaukee less the fabulous beers. I sit at the Riverdogs games every week watching the bolied/roasted drama play out and it is absolutley a Southern vs Northern thing. The looks on people’s faces when they watch folks eat boiled peanuts tell you immediately that they are “from off”.

    I stick with the roasted, but, the shells are for tossing in people’s hats, not eating; poor MTM, Bless his heart.

    July 30, 2010
    • Lou, all of my relatives in Ohio won’t eat anything. They snarl up their noses at every single Southern delicacy. It is just sad, but maybe it is an Ohio trait. πŸ™‚

      I had to apologize to MTM this morning. I told him he was going to be persecuted today on this blog.

      July 30, 2010
  3. a guess #

    Boiled peanuts are not only just a southern thing they seem to be particular to Georgia and SC. When I would return home from college in New Orleans, I would look forward to crossing what I termed “the boiled peanut line” somewhere between Montgomery and Atlanta. I used to know the exact exit where I would find the familiar water stained brown paper bags sitting by the register. That is how I knew I was almost home.

    July 30, 2010
    • Love the “boiled peanut line.” I’ve never thought of it that way, but it is true, isn’t it? In Tennessee, where my family is originally from, no one had ever heard of them, either.

      That was my one disappointment with the Hominy boiled peanuts, Alice. They MUST come in the wet brown paper bag.

      July 30, 2010
  4. *Great* post — I grew up on boiled peanuts as well. (Boiled peanuts and a Cheerwine in a glass bottle, for the win.) My dad would make them on a camp stove out back, as my mother wouldn’t let him boil the suckers in the house.

    I tend to change my mind rather frequently as to who has the best. Right now I’m partial to the guy on the right side of the road (next to the produce stand) just as you go over the bridge into Folly Beach.

    July 30, 2010
    • You know, there’s an article in NY Magazine this week about the locavore soda movement that is being spearheaded in NYC, and I’m like, WHAT? What about Cheerwine? Blenheim Ginger Ale (always what I wanted with boiled peanuts), Sun Drop, RC Cola??? The South has been wise to that for decades. Here’s the article: http://nymag.com/restaurants/features/soda/

      Next time I go out to Folly, I’ll stop at that stand and let you know what I think. (And, I wonder how much weight I’m going to gain from reading your blog and trying all these great places you lead me to.)

      πŸ™‚

      July 30, 2010
      • Well, I think my next post is going to be a book review — so you’re safe for a while. πŸ™‚

        July 30, 2010
      • Unless it is a book about food. Or eating. Or not being able to stop oneself from eating. πŸ™‚

        July 30, 2010
  5. Laura #

    One of my life’s biggest heartbreaks? Developing an allergy to peanuts in my 30s. No more salty boiled goodness for me. It makes me tear up to even type this. MTM-eating shells is odd behavior.

    July 30, 2010
    • Oh, Laura, that is heartbreaking. Is there not some sort of shot or drug for this affliction?

      July 30, 2010
  6. although i usually don’t actively seek them out, i will happily consume peanuts in their boiled or roasted state.

    mom used to make these bundles of sticky rice wrapped in banana or lotus leaves and usually had peanuts in them as well. it’s all boiled or steamed for a few hours to cook everything so the peanuts embedded in the sticky rice end up having the same kind of texture and flavour as boiled peanuts.

    dad has always been a roasted peanut guy, and growing up there was always a big tin of peanuts around. we’d sit around shelling and eating peanuts while watching hockey and football games on tv.

    July 30, 2010
    • Well, you’re from further North than MTM, thus destroying the “it’s a Northern thing” argument above.

      Actually, I have had boiled peanuts in Asian foods. I can’t imagine that being the origin of our Southern dish, can you?

      I love reading these family stories. Thanks for sharing these, Eugene.

      July 30, 2010
  7. Tes #

    Wow we love boiled peanut here in Thailand and India, too. Especially in rainy season… we always have to have a steamy hot bowl of boiled peanut in front of TV.

    July 30, 2010
    • Someone else of Asian descent told me here that he grew up eating boiled peanuts. They are such a “warm me up” in cold weather, aren’t they? Thanks for commenting and reading!

      July 30, 2010
  8. Amber Deutsch #

    Boiled peanuts are manna. Saltier the better. With a Blenheim’s extra hot. My mother-in-law makes a great recipe – I think it’s about time I guilt her into a batch.

    On another subject, I am really mystified by this cheese curd thing. Until today, cheese curds = cottage cheese, in my mind. I followed the link and read all about them (I really don’t want to know any more about rennin). It seems like they’re just young (perhaps saltier?) small hunks of cheese. I’d love to hear from anyone who can tell me more. I am hoping someone can tell me where I can find them locally (say, this half of the country) as I am unsure when I might get to Wisconsin.

    And MTM – about the cilantro for the boiled peanuts and the shell thing – we’re not angry, we’re just disappointed.

    July 30, 2010
    • I love LOVE them with Blenheim’s extra hot, too. Perfect together.

      Cheese curds are just gross. There’s a reason you had to look at the link address several times to convince yourself that it didn’t read http://www.cheeseturds.com You do not need to waste time trying them.

      July 30, 2010
      • what? hey, no. fries with cheese curds and topped with gravy. ooey gooey goodness

        July 30, 2010
      • I am not a fan of poutine. I have TRIED poutine, but it just ruined the fries for me. Sad, I know.

        July 30, 2010
  9. michael maher #

    Ok, to set some things straight: First, although I am from Wisconsin, I do not eat cheese curds; to me, they are as gross as boiled peanuts. Second, I do not eat roasted peanut shells by themselves…it is always ‘peanuts on the half shell’ (crack the properly roasted peanuts in half, toss the top half of the shell, and enjoy the crunchy saltiness of the remainder). Third, boiling peanuts seems appropriate for a cuisine that takes perfectly crispy fresh green beans or other vegetables and proceeds to boil them into a disgusting grey mush; I’ll take my vegetables with some crispness, and my peanuts roasted, thank you.

    OK, let the roasting of this Yankee continue….

    July 30, 2010
    • But you did eat cheese curds when you were growing up – enough to realize how yucky they are. And, you ate some of those roasted peanuts whole. I will NEVER forget my horror over it.

      I think I want boiled peanuts again for dinner tonight….. πŸ™‚

      July 30, 2010
    • i’m with you on the veggies.

      July 30, 2010
      • I’m actually with MTM on the veggies, too. I like them crispy.

        July 30, 2010
  10. While I love all the other new foods I’ve tried since moving to SC, there is no beauty in boiled peanuts. I fully and totally cilantro the nasty things.

    Roasted, but no shells.

    July 30, 2010
    • So sad, Bill. So sad.

      July 30, 2010
    • It is horridly sad that Bill doesn’t love boiled peanuts. Andra, I’m with you! I love boiled peanuts. They were the treat of the summer in my childhood at Folly Beach. I’d eat so many the skin on my lips would just parch and come off. As a matter of fact, I’m now salivating just thinking about them. Bill does love other Southern delicacies, like fluffy biscuits and vinegar based BBQ (you’re right, it is the only one to eat) but still doesn’t understand the joy of a pot of “Pole Beans” cooked with tiny new potatoes and just a bit of bacon. Yummy!

      July 31, 2010
      • Well, I’ll come over and we can share a pot of pole beans and some boiled peanuts any time. We can stare at MTM and Bill as we slurp all that up. It will be grand. πŸ™‚

        July 31, 2010
  11. Anne Howe #

    Since my Charleston based daughter is allergic to peanuts, we’ve never indulged in boiled peanuts on any visit until the spring of 2010, when another couple from Michigan joined us for dinner at The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene. They were served in a plastic tray on wet soggy brown paper. We all sort of turned up our noses at them, but eventually we dig in and at every last one. That’s what a long cocktail hour on the porch does…gives you courage to try anything!! I didn’t cilantro them, but neither did I love them. But next time I visit, I’ll try them from the stand on the way to Folly Beach, could be the perfect snack after kayaking and before a nice cold beer.

    July 30, 2010
    • They really are lovely sitting on the porch, listening to the sounds, and sipping a cold drink. (The Wreck’s aren’t the best, by the way.)

      July 30, 2010
  12. Anne Howe #

    oh, by the way, half the shell eaten with a roasted peanut at a baseball game is the bomb. Good fiber, excellent crunch and perfect with beer. MTM – I am with you on this one!

    July 30, 2010
    • This MUST be a Great Lakes area affliction. MTM says the same thing – “It’s good fiber!” So is the wine cork when I take it out of the bottle, but I don’t gnaw on it.

      July 30, 2010
    • I just would never eat half a peanut shell, like watermelon seeds those things are meant to be spat on the ground!

      July 31, 2010
      • I truly do not get it. MTM and I just had a good natured argument about it AGAIN in the car.

        July 31, 2010
  13. There’s really nothing that compares to good salty boiled peanut. There’s enough packed in those little things to make a meal.

    July 30, 2010
  14. Amber #

    Ok, now I HAVE to go get or make some boiled peanuts. I LOVE them, but they are usually just a craving thing, and now I have a craving! YUM!

    July 30, 2010
    • Amber, please post some pics on Facebook. I’d love to see Jacob with boiled peanuts smeared all over his face.

      July 30, 2010
  15. Laura #

    In response to your question, Andra, the only fix is a bunch of pre-munching Benadryl and a handy epi-pen. BUT … If I read much more of these comments, I may take the chance.

    As for the best, I’ll have to say my husband’s. He uses about a whole container of Morton’s salt and it makes a huge mess on the stove, but it’s worth it.

    July 30, 2010
    • Well, drug use for the purpose of eating boiled peanuts every so often is worth it. πŸ™‚

      July 30, 2010
  16. Amber #

    Oh no! That would mean that I would have to share them with him. It’s bad enough that I have to share with Preston :-0 Lucky for us, that Faith hasn’t developed a taste for them.

    July 30, 2010
    • I think making them just for yourself is totally fine. After all, you do the work; you get to eat. πŸ˜‰

      July 30, 2010
  17. Hi Andrea! I was just browsing the blogs and came upon yours. Boiled peanuts is beloved in Asia too, just like here in the Philippines. There’s something about the juiciness of boiled peanuts that dry roasted cannot match. πŸ˜€ Love your entry!

    October 6, 2010
    • Several of my friends with Asian roots have told me about their tasty dishes that include boiled peanuts. I wonder if somehow that’s where our Southern delicacy stems from? We don’t have a history of Asian migration in South Carolina, but it is curious to think that they might somehow be connected.

      Thanks for reading my post and for commenting, Liv. I agree with you. Boiled peanuts are awesome. πŸ™‚

      October 6, 2010
  18. I like how each region has its own foods that catch on and become comfort food to the people who grow up there. Like your husband grew up on cheese curds, custard and fish frys, it makes it difficult to stay connected when you move away to a new area. Not too many boiled peanut stands here in Milwaukee but they are more appreciated when you come back to visit.

    December 5, 2010
    • Tom, I always look forward to coming for a visit. I never had frozen custard until I came to Milwaukee. And, MTM actually took me to a fish fry in an old gym building downtown. I’m glad I found your list so that we can reference it when we come back to visit family. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      December 5, 2010
  19. Funny, Andra. ‘Wonderful how you celebrate your Southerness! Boiled peanuts are a treat for me a few times a year . . though I did respectfully try cheese curds. Ready for your book . . .

    September 3, 2011
    • I just teared up reading words from you. Are you well? Please message me and catch me up on how you are doing. xo

      September 3, 2011

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