Saturday, April 25, 2009

Florida, Pt. 1: Boiled Peanuts

I recently returned from a trip to Florida to visit my father for my spring break. Land of lizards, beaches, old people, and amusement parks.

After enjoying a fishing area, we came across a roadside stand on the way home: a hand-written sign reading "Boiled Peanuts ahead." Now, I've heard about boiled peanuts. A friend of mine, native of Florida, absolutely loves them, while my sister claims they are nasty little mushy peanuts. I figured it was time to find out for myself.

I did a little research on them to find out how they came about, and came upon this site which had great information. It is believed that they started back in the Civil War, with peanuts acting as a much-needed nutrient source (lots of fat and protein) for soldiers. They began boiling them in salt, and the salt worked as a preservative while the boiling killed the bacteria. Soldiers found they could keep the peanuts in their packs for several days without going bad. This eventually led to boiled peanuts being a southern tradition.

Most recipes seem to agree that green (freshly harvested) peanuts are the only ones to use, while the amount of salt in the water seems up for debate. Some say you can boil them for a few hours, while others say it takes at least 2 days to get them to the right softness. Traditionally of course, you would use nothing more than salt and water to boil them in, but some people add in things like Cajun seasoning, chile peppers, ham hocks, or beer to spice things up a bit.

We pulled off the road to where an older guy with a great white beard sat on a lawn chair. A few feet across from him was nothing more than a table with a sleeve of styrofoam cups and notebook next to a little propane set up for a large stockpot of peanuts. I watched as he slowly got up and walked to his notebook where he tallied my visit: twenty-two people so far for the day. Four bucks bought me a giant cup of the steamy, salty boiled peanuts. And they were malodorous, mushy, foul little peanuts. Hey, I tried to keep an open mind. They had a nice peanut flavor. But that musty smell that surrounded them, and the mushy texture...I just couldn't get past it. I think I'll let the southerners keep that tradition of theirs. We gave them to a friend of my father's. We haven't heard from her since.

1 comment:

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