Over the years, I have become quite the fan of boiled peanuts.
I remember the first time my father bought some from a wizened old man at a roadside stand in the Carolinas. The shells were an ugly, dark brown color and the peanuts themselves looked more like pinto beans or kidney beans to me. They were soft like cooked beans, too, and salty.
Not everyone in my family likes them, but my own devotion to boiled peanuts was sealed when our buddy Mike started bringing them to the beach every summer. There’s nothing like sitting back in your beach chair, listening to the ocean and sucking on salty boiled peanuts.
Yesterday, I came across some green (raw) peanuts in the shell at a local market. I wondered: Could I possibly recreate the boiled peanuts of the roadside stands in the Carolinas? The answer was a resounding NO, I could not recreate them. At least not in about 45 minutes.
I did try, however. I boiled them for about 20 minutes in salty water, then let them soak for another 10 minutes or so. At that point, everyone got impatient for a snack, so I drained them and served them up.
The shells looked nothing like the lovely ones pictured above. They just looked like tan peanut shells. I wondered where that dark color comes from. The peanuts inside were softened and had a nice flavor, but they were nowhere near as salty as roadside boiled peanuts.
I realized then that every time I’ve bought boiled peanuts, they’ve come out of a big cauldron filled with hot, salty water. Who knows how long they have been sitting there? Perhaps all day. And maybe steeping in that liquid for hours turns them a darker color and lets the salt soak in.
I’m sure some Southerner out there has the answers to these questions. I don’t consider this a failed experiment, just the first attempt at a snack that I’m determined to keep practicing until I get it right. Isn’t that the secret to most good cooking?