I found myself with leftover mustard greens last week in my fridge and decided to make a salad with edamame. At the last minute, I boiled up some peanuts and tossed those in as well. Boiled peanuts has always been a favorite snack of mine since childhood. I love them plain, in cold salads, and sprinkled on congee.
Chinese-Style Boiled Peanuts
1 cup raw peanuts, with skin on
1/2 tsp five spice powder
2-3 star anise, whole
1/2 tsp chinese peppercorn, whole
1 tsp salt
Combine all ingredients in a pot of water and let it come to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer with lid on, for 30 minutes or until peanuts are soft and yielding, but not mushy.
It came as quite a surprise to me when I learned from an episode of Paula Deen that Southerners also enjoy their share of boiled peanuts, low-country style. I did some research into the subject and found that they are a traditional snack in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Boiled peanuts are green or raw nuts that are boiled in salty water for hours outdoors over a fire. The shells turn soggy, and the peanuts take on a fresh, legume flavor. They have been around since the Civil War when, in times of meat and bread shortage, the Confederate troops were given peanuts as an important source of protein. The salt works as a preservative, and the boiling kills impurities and bacteria.
A traditional way that old-timers like to eat boiled peanuts is to drop the shelled peanuts into a bottle of cold RC Cola and gulp down the combo. Southerners will tell you boiled peanuts should always be accompanied by a beer, sweet tea, or a soft drink.
Low Country Boiled Peanuts
4 to 5 pounds green (raw) peanuts in shell
4 to 6 quarts water
1 cup plain salt
Wash unshelled peanuts thoroughly in cold water until water runs clear; then soak in cool, clean water for approximately 30 minutes before cooking.
In a large pot, place soaked peanuts and cover completely with water. Add 1 cup of salt per gallon of water. Cook, covered, on high heat for 4 to 7 hours.
Boil the peanuts for about 4 hours, then taste. Taste again in 10 minutes, both for salt and texture. Keep cooking and tasting until the peanuts reach desired texture (when fully cooked, the texture of the peanut should be similar to that of a cooked dry pea or bean).
Remove from heat and drain peanuts.
Peanuts may be eaten hot or at room temperature, or chilled in the refrigerator and eaten cold, shelling as you eat them.