When I was in elementary and high school (there were only two levels) my bestest bud was an Alabama transplant. No. Not a really a transplant. The family was "Suthrun" through and through; they were north of the Mason-Dixon only because of the work his Dad found at the nearby Chevy plant. Summer vacations meant regular trips "back home" to Dozier, which happened to be his Dad’s name, too.
Before I was teenager, I knew about New Year’s black-eye peas and hog jowls, cornbread and beans, greens, grits, poke salat, hominy, white lightning and a host of other down home delicacies. The white lightning came when I turned 18 (drinking age at the time) and his Dad offered me a glass of water. I should have known something was up because his Dad had a you-know-how-to-work-a-faucet attitude.
I was into the second swallow before it hit. Whoa!
One day we were shortcutting through the house when I was pulled up short by a new aroma in the kitchen. "What’s that?" I asked his Mom. "Bald peanuts," she said. My retort "I didn’t know they had hair in the first place" earned me a rap on the head with her wood cook spoon. But I was hooked by the third one.
After that, the only time I saw boiled peanuts was at roadside stands, and those only in the South. It was not until years later that I tried cooking them.
The recipe is simple enough – green or raw peanuts in the shell, water, salt, but the devil is in the details. The difference between green and raw peanuts is, essentially, freshness. "Green" is freshly picked and cooks quicker, while "raw" are older and drier and can take hours to cook.
For anyone who wants to try boiled peanuts for the first time – do not get canned green peanuts. Cook them yourself or wait until you can find them at a snack bar. It is a near certainty that if you get canned green peanuts, you will not get them a second time.
It took a number of times before I got the desired result. When cooked properly, the liquid will be inside the shell and the peanut will be the texture of a nicely cooked white bean. What was baffling was that after hours of cooking, the inside of the shell would be dry and the peanut hard. But through trial-and-error I found a way to get them how I like them, and in about half the time called for in most recipes.
Here is how I do my boiled peanuts.
1. A batch can be whatever size, but one pound dry is probably the smallest for the effort. Make sure the peanuts are not roasted or you will be wasting your time and uselessly enlarging your carbon footprint.
2. Put the peanuts in a pot just large enough for the amount to be cooked.
3. Add sufficient water to cover the peanuts by about a half-inch; add 1 – 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. For spicy boiled peanuts, use any shrimp or crab boil spice mix – reduce the added salt according to the amount, if any, in the spice mix.
The peanuts will float; use a heavy plate or a cooling rack that fits the pot with a canning jar filled with water to keep the peanuts under the water.
4. Measure an equal amount of water into a pitcher and dissolve an equal amount of salt into it. This water will be used later and it needs to be cold, refrigerate or add ice to cool it further.
5. Bring the peanuts in the pot to a rolling boil – don’t be fooled by the bubbling of air being forced out of the shells – reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Remove from heat, and then add the cool water to the heated peanuts, maintaining about an inch above the peanuts. All the cool water might not be needed. As the heated air in the shells cools it will pull the liquid inside; let stand for about 20 minutes.
7. Bring the water level to an inch above the peanuts, cover, return the pot to the stove and bring it to a boil again; reduce heat to a simmer.
8. The peanuts will need to simmer for 3 to 4 hours, depending on how dry they were at the start of cooking – test for doneness about every 30 minutes after three hours.
Boiled peanuts are a good crockpot dish, but would still need the initial cooking and dowsing with cool water – 8 to 12 hours in a crockpot would not hurt them.
Boiled peanuts are perishable. They keep about a week in the refrigerator, and they freeze well. They are a good snack that can be eaten hot, room temperature or chilled.
I have tried boiling shelled peanuts, but to me they seem to lack flavor.
Just for fun, here are a few "Hot Dish" recipes from the North, found in a 1963 cookbook produced by Bethel Lutheran Church at Hudson, Wisc. Up that way, "Hot Dishes" are the backbone of church potlucks.
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. sausage meat
1 can cream style corn
1 large onion chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg. Chinese noodles
Cook the noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes; drain off liquid. Then mix all the ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees until done. - Mrs. Lloyd Erickson, Sr.
This one I believe needs more than a single-serve package of Ramen, so the package of noodles is likely the larger ones found in the specialty, international or Asian sections of the grocery store.
DEEP SEA HOT DISH
1 pkg. noodles (cooked)
1 cup medium white sauce
1 can mushrooms
1 can tuna
Bake together 35 - 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Brown 1 lb. veal or pork steak (cubed), 1/2 cup celery and onion, Heat one can cream of mushroom soup and one can cream of chicken soup and one can water. Pour over 1/2 cup raw rice and one small can of peas and the meat mixture. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. - Mrs. LeRoy Brendum
SOUP HOT DISH
1 can vegetable beef soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can chicken noodles soup
Fry 1 lb. or less hamburger with a little onion until brown. Then mix all ingredients together. Grease a casserole and spread chow mein noodles on the bottom, pour in other mixture and top with more chow mein noodles. Bake about 45 minutes. - Mr. R. Dahlman
COMPANY HOT DISH
Brown: 1 lb. ground round steak, 2 tbsps. butter, 2 onions, chopped (3/4, cup)
8 oz. pkg. noodles - cooked
4 oz. can mushrooms
1/2 can ripe olives, sliced
1/2 lb. American cheese, diced
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 can mushroom soup plus 1 can milk
1/2 tbsp. salt
one cup chow mein noodles
1/2 cup salted sliced cashews
Mix together and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. One-half hour before serving sprinkle with chow mein noodle and salted cashews. — Mrs. Al Lundberg
CHOW MEIN HOT DISH
1 lb. ground beef (lightly browned)
1 small onion, chopped
1 can chicken rice soup
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups water
2 tbsps. Worcestershire sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup raw rice
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
3 tbsps. soy sauce
Mix all ingredients together. Bake 1 hour in 325 degree oven. Spread 1 can chow mein noodles over the top last 20 minutes of baking. — Mrs. Arthur Hanson
This column is for readers to share their recipes. The recipes need not be fancy or original; just good cooking that you and your family enjoy -a few sentences of any personal history behind a recipe would be great.
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