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Friday, October 9, 2009

from one peanut farmer to another...

one of my favorite things about where i grew up is that jimmy and rosalynn carter grew up there too. i believe them to be two of history's genuine heros and i am proud to be a product of the south georgia county that helped make them the great part-of-the-solution they both are. i was 3 when carter was elected and 6 when he left office, so my first awareness of the president and first lady was also of two people from 10 miles down the road. how cool is that?

rob and i went in june to my hometown so he could meet my family and see the somewhat fascinating little place i'd come from. we toured plains, home of jimmy and rosalynn, and also visited carter's boyhood farm in nearby archery. (incidentally, if you live in the area and haven't been to the farm, GO. it's incredibly well done. but don't go in june during a mind-numbing heat wave like we did...) there's a little shop of curiosities in downtown plains which sells buttons from carter's 1976 presidential campaign. they were evidently found in the upstairs of one of the old buildings used as campaign HQ. i bought one and stuck it on my grocery-carrying backpack and started calling the pack "jimmy."

i rarely leave the house without jimmy. we go everywhere together-- farmers markets, grocery stores, the corner cafe a couple of blocks away... one day i was loading jimmy up with about 10 pounds of corn at the farmers market when the guy working the alvarez farms booth commented that he liked my button. i responded as i always do, by standing up tall and saying brightly, "he's from my home county!" smiling, the guy reached into a box by his feet and pulled up a giant bunch of raw peanuts grown on his farm, a reminder that jimmy carter and peanuts are inextricably linked. but seeing those dusty legumes also triggered a salty southern food memory i had been in danger of forgetting-- boiled peanuts!

i love boiled peanuts (pronounced "bawld" if you're into authenticity). they are salty, earthy goodness, and some of the ones with the thicker shells even get kinda sweet. i looked around online to see if i could uncover how boiling peanuts became a southern tradition and found several references to them having been a high-protein ration for confederate soldiers towards the end of the civil war when bread and meat were scarce. now you find them at rural roadside stands with the words "boiLed P-nuTs" spray painted on tattered plywood signs. (that's how you know they're good.)

my family's annual boiled peanuts experience would begin with my dad pulling in the driveway with the bed of the truck filled with nuts still on the plant. he'd wash 'em, boil 'em half the day, and freeze 'em to be eaten throughout football season. my operation was on a much smaller scale-- since i'd never made them before, i started with one pound and an email to dad for instructions.

boiled peanuts

1 lb raw (aka green) peanuts (NOT roasted or otherwise cooked or processed)
1/2 cup salt
lots of water
big ol' pot

wash peanuts thoroughly. throw 'em in a pot with the salt and lots of water. bring to a low rolling boil, cover and cook roughly 4 hours. taste at 3 hours and add more salt if necessary. they should come out of the shell easily, and the texture should be like an undercooked pinto bean. enjoy.

i'm planning to make more and freeze them for when i have moments of missing home. it's fun for me to bring the south into my seattle kitchen, which is good since i don't really have a choice. even working on this post i looked around the desk and realized i was eating boiled peanuts and drinking sweet tea from a mason jar. i'm not kidding. there's no mistaking where this girl comes from.

psst! hey angela! your heritage is showing...


  1. Well dang, reading this made realize how I missed boiled peanuts and sweet tea. Now the sweet tea I can make myself, but have no idea where I'd find raw peanuts in southern Oregon :-)

    Thanks for the thought :-D

  2. you might be surprised-- mine came from eastern washington!

  3. Ok, I have to confess that in all my years in 'mericus, I never tried boiled peanuts...I was always too afraid of their texture...which is a big thing with me. By the way, I noticed that McDonald's is selling sweet tea here in the 'Couve. Crazy man, crazy.

  4. bets, i've seen the sweet tea ads-- "sweeter than puppies hugging kittens." wasn't that one of their billboards? that's probably too sweet for consumption! btw, if you ever feel brave and want to try a boiled peanut, let me know. :)