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The Beauty in Boiled Peanuts

MTM is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He grew up eating things like frozen custard and cheese curds and Friday Fish Fry. 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 happy. I cannot fathom anyone else feeling differently about something so decadent.

Only MTM cannot stand 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, looked at MTM, and started eating my boiled peanuts with me. “Some people just don’t get Southern,” he said.

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.

Do you like your peanuts roasted? Or boiled?

83 Comments Post a comment
  1. Welp, so much for you guys visiting New Yawk anytime soon. MTM would get very dirty looks for eating the shells and you would get someone a very bad eyebrow cramp asking for some poor hawker to boil your nuts as he eyeballed MTM crunching away and thought you meant HIS for not tossing the shells. Ouch.

    Meanwhile, in Central Park:

    You’d be more than welcome if you bring enough nuts. Hmmm.

    I did have boiled peanuts once as a kid when the parents shipped us down to Macin, GA. Didn’t like them, but when in Rome… you get to run away and hide in a closet when they get served up. Well, they’re better than boiled edamame or those fermented soybeans, that’s for sure…

    January 22, 2014
    • They have to have boiled peanuts somewhere in NYC. They have everything in NYC.

      January 23, 2014
      • You may be correct, as I can see them popping up as an overpriced entree/side dish/starter in a southern-themed restaurant in a hipster neighborhood (I’m lookin’ at you, Brooklyn!) or up-and coming area where southern cuisine has been a staple (aka Hell Up in Harlem!). Time to ask around, I guess.

        January 23, 2014
  2. Oh no! I dream of peanuts on a regular basis. It’s hereditary….my mother thinks that peanuts should be a food group, maybe even the base of the Food Pyramid. We are northerners though. I cannot allow myself to try any new peanut possibilities. My saddle-bags are also hereditary! 😉

    January 22, 2014
    • My saddle bags are, too.

      January 23, 2014
      • In no way our fault. Innocent victims of genetics. 😉
        (and peanuts!)

        January 23, 2014
  3. Its funny how we southerners stick to and are proud of our heritage. Food (being a chef by trade) is one I’m proud of and find hard to break away from and place those influences in my dishes. I love all southern food except boiled peanuts, I do prefer mine roasted (minus the shell however).

    January 22, 2014
    • I think the best dishes come from these riffs on identity.

      January 23, 2014
  4. That sounds just strange enough to try it! I’m Minnesotan, all our peanuts have frozen (take that however you’d like).

    January 22, 2014
    • Do you eat them frozen?

      January 23, 2014
      • Oh gosh no, I usually get mine in a tin pre-shelled for us lazy people. I do have fond memories of a huge barrel of peanuts at the christmas tree farm but they were just roasted.

        January 23, 2014
  5. I may have told you this story before but I am tired and about to hit the chilly streets so…In Junior High (my 7th grade year) we got a new principal who was from Georgia. At our first assembly he tried to explain to us Yankee kids about growing up in the south and everything was going well until he started talking about loving to eat “bald penis”. Well, did I mention this was a Jr High School in Bahstan?

    January 22, 2014
  6. Of my siblings, I am the only born and bred Yankee. The others were all born in the south. One of my sisters lives in Greenville, South Carolina and is still very southern.

    I don’t eat hominy, I don’t eat grits, and I hate boiled peanuts. I will always be a yankee no matter where I live.

    Now roasted peanuts are a great thing, though I don’t eat the shell. There is some satisfaction to be found in ripping the shells open to find the tasty morsel inside.

    January 22, 2014
    • They teach you proper eating across the lake, Jon. 🙂

      January 23, 2014
      • I have heard that they are a bit barbaric over in the land of cheese.

        January 23, 2014
  7. he…..he…ate the shell? What sort of weird animal is he?

    January 22, 2014
  8. Just proof that MTM is completely insane. Does he eat bananas with the skins on? Watermelon rinds? The feathers of a chicken. All of those things, like the shell of a peanut, are meant to be taken off before being consumed.

    Delicacies are best consumed naked.

    January 22, 2014
  9. A southern delicacy I’ve not had the pleasure of trying (or ever recall hearing about). I do like my peanuts roasted. I’ve seen other folks eat the shell, and tried it. Adds roughage to the diet and salt to the flavor but I prefer my peanuts naked. I suppose it’s like sunflower seeds in the shell. It’s easier to eat the shell than peel them, and after awhile you spit out a mouth full of pokey cardboard.

    January 22, 2014
  10. Even though I’ve lived in the South for over 20 years, I’ll vote with MTM and take the roasted and I must confess, I’ve eaten a few shells and all too.

    January 22, 2014
  11. I grew up with both around me, but the roasted one the war for me.

    January 22, 2014
  12. Shells??? He eats the shells? Whatever! I love peanut butter! 🙂

    January 22, 2014
  13. Your first comments remind me of my favorite Fitzgerald short story – “The Ice Palace”. Boiled peanuts are swoon worthy at my house although, my southern born and bred son prefers roasted and he too eats the shells. Weird, huh?

    January 22, 2014
    • He just wants to distinguish himself from his parents.

      January 23, 2014
  14. Roasted. Definitely roasted peanuts (though not the shells).

    January 22, 2014
    • Glad you are one Midwesterner who is not afflicted with the shell eating sickness.

      January 23, 2014
  15. tarakianwarrior #

    I would love to try some boiled peanuts. I’ve only had roasted and I used to eat them shell and all, well, let’s say when I was younger (much younger), I’d put them in my mouth and suck the salt off and chew the soggy shell. Sounds gross, but I love them. However, I’m not adverse to trying boiled peanuts. 😀 Wish they sold them around here. I’m not even sure you can get peanuts that are raw, er, not roasted…and I’m sure I’d be missing the point if I tried to boil the already roasted peanuts. *sigh* Guess I’ll have to take a trip down south so that I can try me some boiled peanuts. 😀

    January 22, 2014
  16. I’ll eat peanuts any way I can get ’em. No shell, though. I love opening them. Like pistachios, it’s a comforting ritual. I prefer roasted to boiled, but like ’em both. Except for a brief stay in Southern California, I’ve lived my entire life north of the 40th parallel.

    January 22, 2014
    • And it looks like you can get a good boiled version in Portland now.

      January 23, 2014
  17. defensordelaverdad #

    Reblogueó esto en Fabián.

    January 22, 2014
  18. I’m not really a fan of peanuts period. I may be doomed to be a damned Yankee forever.

    January 22, 2014
  19. I like them both. I would have to make the boiled version up here, if I wanted to have any, but I get a bag if I vacation in North Carolina.

    January 22, 2014
  20. As a northerner I’ve only had roasted, shells off, but I’ve never tried boiled. I may have to try your recipe though for a fair comparison. 🙂

    January 22, 2014
    • Or, go to Portland and try Amber’s friend’s version. 🙂

      January 23, 2014
  21. I read somewhere a long time ago that there is a direct correlation between how a man eats and how he performs in the bedroom. MTM just sent my mind racing with his wild shell-eating antics. You are a lucky woman, Andra. 😉

    January 22, 2014
  22. these sound great. in the summer, there is a house near my daughter’s, out in the country a bit, that sells homecooked boiled peanuts. i’ve always wondered about them, and will try a batch for sure this summer. they must have been from the south originally )

    January 22, 2014
    • They occur in a lot of Oriental dishes, and I would guess that’s how they got to Australia. Let me know what you think of them.

      January 23, 2014
      • oh, sorry, one of my american daughters’ houses here. but your asian food/aussie connection makes perfect sense – it’s very popular there. can’t wait to try them this summer )

        January 23, 2014
  23. Lance #

    Based on places I’ve traveled the only other places than atlanta I’d live in are san diego, maybe L.A. , the northern Va area near D.C. area and the yucatan peninsula in mexico. But I like/love the south.

    You and I eat the same things. I bought boiled peanuts at almost every one of my teenager’s football game when she was cheering.

    January 22, 2014
    • Sport isn’t the same without a bag of boiled peanuts.

      January 23, 2014
      • Lance #

        This should be a bumper sticker

        January 23, 2014
  24. Yes yes yes yes yes! I love what your friend said: “Some people just don’t get Southern.”

    My husband is genuinely disgusted every time I eat boiled peanuts. Meanwhile, he eats boiled shrimp without peeling the exoskeleton off! They are called “peel-and-eat shrimp” for crying out loud! Thank you, Andra, for giving me some small validation that I am on the right side of history here.

    January 22, 2014
    • I have never, ever heard of anyone who eats shrimp shells. I used to eat the tails when I was a tiny girl, but never the shells. Does he just like crunch?

      January 23, 2014
      • Yes. He says it’s because he’s Italian. I say we’ve been to Italy, and there were no shrimp shells in anything we ate. He’s also one of those people who cracks bones for the marrow. A regular Henry the VIII, my husband. 😉

        January 23, 2014
  25. Has to be roasted for me, Andra. I didn’t even think they could be boiled…

    January 22, 2014
    • If you have a good oriental restaurant nearby, they might have some. 🙂

      January 23, 2014
  26. I’ve never tried boiled peanuts but I hear they are delicious. A friend of mine who grew up in the south just recently started selling boiled peanuts in Portland, OR. Miss Dee’s Nuts! They’ve been a big hit. Also, I think eating peanuts, shell and all, is a midwestern thing. We were raised to waste nothin’ or we’re just lazy…

    January 22, 2014
  27. Shells and all? Man.

    January 22, 2014
  28. Hmm….something new for me to try. I have never had boiled peanuts. However, I will admit to sometimes eating a tiny bit of the roasted peanut shell. I get carried away licking the salt off the outside 😛

    January 22, 2014
    • Maybe that’s what MTM was trying to do………..no, he just likes the shell.

      January 23, 2014
  29. Looks easy to make – I’m all for that! I tend to go with fried everything but am willing to try boiled peanuts. How cool! Can I boil some and fry the others?

    January 22, 2014
  30. Let’s just skip the peanuts altogether unless they’ve been smashed and churned into chunky peanut butter.

    Now, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts? other places) and almonds? Roasted and salted and spiced up, yes please!

    January 22, 2014
    • Cashews are my favorite. I won’t buy them, because I would eat them until they were gone. One sitting.

      January 23, 2014
  31. Now I’m in the mood for Peanut Soup . . . with crushed peanuts on top!

    Hope your feet are holding up!

    January 22, 2014
  32. Roasted! But that’s because they’re most familiar, and I can’t recall that I’ve had boiled peanuts, Andra. I was raised with a lot of great southern regional cooking care of my grandmother and I’d do anything to taste her fried okra again! Yum!

    January 22, 2014
  33. MTM was eating peanut shells?! Was that just for emphasis (in which case I totally support his commitment) or does he always do that (in which case I totally look at him like he is a three-headed alien)?

    January 23, 2014
  34. Roasted, boiled–I’ll take peanuts anyway I can get ’em. I’m a Northerner, but my parents are from the South and eventually returned there to live. So I’m used to visiting relatives in the South.

    January 23, 2014
  35. Now, I long to try boiled peanuts as all nuts (and seeds) are considered sacred in my diet. As for MTM ..that boy better hope his small intestine stays strong, or he will have quite the explaining for why his coil is filled with shells…just sayin’ ~ a

    January 23, 2014
  36. Is Texas considered South? I ask because I spent most of my life there. Then we moved to Georgia and then on to SC where we have been for the last 12 years. I have NEVER eaten a boiled peanut. Just the thought of eating it makes me …. not so good. Roasted peanuts, sure…. There are other nuts that Katy and I like, what the heck are those things? You can buy them in the store and they are sort of greenish. We LOVE those things. They are fairly expensive so we do not get them very often.

    January 24, 2014
  37. My dear lady, I have never heard of boiling a nut, although it does sound intriguing. If I can get my hands on some raw I shall have to try it and see what I think.

    January 30, 2014
  38. While my husband thinks Sweet Tea is an abomination (he’s English), he does love boiled peanuts as do I. That and good fried okra are probably the two most missed Southern foods for me.

    February 3, 2014

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