Boiled Peanuts

I think I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a small community in southwest Georgia. A very small community. The entire population of my home county is about 6,100 and the population of the county seat, the only town in the county, is about 2,000. That’s small. The next nearest town is 15 miles away and it is only slightly larger than my hometown. I am inextricably bound to that little town and the people there. It is as much a part of me as I am of it. No matter where I go, no matter where I live, that tiny little town will always be home. Up until I was in the third grade, my family lived about ten miles out of town on our farm. Even after we moved to “town,” Daddy continued to farm for many more years. Daddy raised cows and pigs and he grew mostly corn and peanuts. As a matter of fact, everyone I knew grew peanuts. Back in those days, peanuts were a big money crop. If you had a good year with your peanuts, you did quite well. Even the people who didn’t farm were in some way dependent on peanuts. If the farmers did well, the merchants did well. If you didn’t farm and weren’t a merchant, you probably worked for one of the peanut processing plants. All intertwined and all hoping for a good peanut crop year after year.

Did you know that peanuts are not actually nuts? They’re legumes. In the same family as beans and lentils. And they grow underground. Peanut harvesting begins in early to mid-September each year. When the peanuts are ready to harvest, the farmer uses a machine that digs the entire plant up and inverts it on top of the ground. The peanuts are left to dry for a short time on top of the ground before harvesting begins. Large peanut combines are driven up and down the rows of inverted peanuts. The combines pick up the plants, separate the vines from the peanuts, drop the vine back down on the ground and shoot the peanuts up and into a large container on the back. Once the container, or “hopper,” is full, the peanuts are dumped into special trailers. The trailers are pulled two or three at a time out of the field and taken to the local processing plant.

I can remember the sound of the peanut dryers running day and night at the peanut processing plants during peanut season. You could hear them from anywhere in town. They were the lullaby we fell asleep to on fall nights. And the smell! Right now, if I close my eyes, I can imagine the smell of freshly dug peanuts. It’s the most fresh, earthy smell you can imagine. A couple of months ago I was driving toward home and suddenly I smelled that freshly dug peanut smell! Sure enough, I rounded the next curve in the road and there was a field of peanuts being picked. I felt like a little girl coming home.

Part of living in a peanut growing area is the joy of eating boiled peanuts. They are truly a “southern thing” and I understand that some people outside of the south don’t find them very appealing. That’s okay — more for me! If you want to make boiled peanuts, you will need “green” peanuts. Green peanuts are peanuts that have recently been “dug” and haven’t dried out or been roasted. I vividly remember Daddy bringing home stacks and stacks of fresh peanuts still on the vines every fall. Mama, me and my sisters would pick the peanuts off the vines, then wash them well and Mama would cook them up for us to enjoy. Where I live now I don’t have access to really fresh green peanuts, but one of the local grocery stores occasionally has them in the produce department. When I saw them there on my last trip, I just had to have some.

peanuts_raw

There are several varieties of peanuts and I saw at least three different types in this one bag. The small ones with the red skins are Spanish peanuts. The rounded, plump ones – like ballpark peanuts – are Virginia peanuts and the long ones with 3 or more peanuts in a shell are Valencias or Runners.

I’m sure this is far more than anyone ever wanted to know about peanuts and peanut production! But, hey, now you know something that maybe you didn’t before, right?

Let’s get these peanuts boiling!

1 gallon bag cleaned green peanuts
1/2 cup salt (do not faint – most of it gets discarded)
water

Wash the peanuts well to make sure all the dirt is dislodged. I usually fill the sink, dump the peanuts in and agitate them.

peanuts_inpot

Place the peanuts in a very large pot and add water to cover the peanuts by 1 inch or more. I used my crockpot this time so that I could just leave them alone to cook while BeeBop and I went out Christmas shopping. Worked like a charm!

peanuts_salt

Add salt and stir well. Yes, it really does take a lot of salt to flavor the peanuts. However, a huge amount of the salt gets discarded with the cooking brine. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until done. Start testing for doneness after about 4 hours. The peanuts should have a soft, but not mushy, texture. Cook longer if needed. Sometimes it takes 6 or more hours for the peanuts to cook.

After the peanuts are done, drain the brine and store the peanuts in the refrigerator (if there are any left!). Don’t let them sit in the brine. They will get too salty.

Enjoy!

Boiled Peanuts
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A true Southern delicacy - boiled green peanuts.
Ingredients
  • 1 gallon bag cleaned green peanuts
  • 1/2 cup salt (do not faint – most of it gets discarded)
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Wash the peanuts well to make sure all the dirt is dislodged. I usually fill the sink, dump the peanuts in and agitate them.
  2. Place the peanuts in a very large pot and add water to cover the peanuts by 1 inch or more.
  3. Add salt and stir well. Remember that a huge amount of the salt gets discarded with the cooking brine.
  4. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until done. Start testing for doneness after about 4 hours. The peanuts should have a soft, but not mushy, texture. Cook longer if needed. Sometimes it takes 6 or more hours for the peanuts to cook.
  5. After the peanuts are done, drain the brine and store the peanuts in the refrigerator. Don’t let them sit in the brine as they'll become too salty.
Notes
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Comments

  1. L- says

    OMG! We have GOT to get you a cooking show! You just made boiled peanuts interesting! I mean, we all know that they’re good, but I think it’s safe to say they’re a little boring. I KNEW all of that stuff in the article and it was still interesting. You’re so good. =)

  2. Miss P says

    “L” is so right!! I can see the show now — a long shot of rows and rows of peanuts in the field, followed by film of the tractors, inverters, combines, all the machinery needed to harvest. I used to (and still) see pickup trucks that have the tailgate up, and hand pulled peanut vines draped over the top of the tailgate – a sure sign that somebody is going to be busy picking peanuts for a boiling.

    Remember what Daddy used to say about the smell of freshly dug peanuts? “Smells like money to me!”

    For those who have never experienced boiled peanuts, what a void in your culinary existence. Pair those with a large icy cold beverage, and you have an afternoon for telling tales, and laughing ’til your sides hurt. They also make a wonderful snack for watching college football games!

    Take care.

    Miss P

    • says

      The ones you do at home are so much better than the roadside stands. Those have been boiling for way too long and are usually overcooked. If you ever find some green peanuts, give it a try for yourself!

  3. says

    Oh how your story brought back memories. We did not grow peanuts on our farm but Dad worked for a fertilizer company that also had long rows of these driers. The trailers would pull up and hook up the hoses that would blow in the heat. The smell of this permeated the whole town. There is nothing finer for this southern boy than waiting for fresh green peanuts to finish boiling. Even when the season is not in, I buy the raw ones in bags and boil these for hours. They are firmer but so good….thanks for sharing your story…

    • says

      Aren’t they just so good? I always like the “pops” best – the immature peanuts whose shells hadn’t hardened yet. They were soft and salty and you could eat the whole thing shell and all! You sure don’t get any pops in the canned ones or the green peanuts from the grocery store. You have to pick them off the vines yourself for those!

  4. Neena says

    Brings back a lot of memories. Somehow boiled peanuts are not as good as they used to be. Maybe I just need my little girls home to share them with. Great story.

  5. says

    When I was in Atlanta for business, I had my first taste of boiled peanuts. I was hooked…except that you cannot find them in Boston! Where can you get the green peanuts??

    • says

      Green peanuts in Boston?!? Gosh, I don’t have a clue except maybe a farmers market that has “exotic” (ha!ha!) produce. I did do a quick Google search and found a couple of online sources. That might be an option, however I can’t vouch for them.

  6. says

    I think I tried boiled peanuts at some points and didn’t really care for the texture. I love roasted peanuts but the boiled ones seemed really mushy and bland. Maybe the key is making them yourself.

  7. Dale says

    I just finished boiling 3 lbs. of peanuts (Va., BIGGUNS!!) about an hour ago. They’ll be gone by tomorrow night. (:>) I grew up in the deep south with all of it’s wonderful foods & culture. Currently I live in E. Tn. in a small town/county. Folks around here look at me like I’ve got horns or something when I talk about or offer them boiled Peanuts, TILL THEY TRY THEM!!!!!

  8. says

    I love boiled peanuts. I grew up eating a lot of these as my parents used to plant a lot of peanuts to replenish the soil after planting other vegetables. Any leftover will be sun dried where we gathered to eat everyday as they slowly get dried. Reminds me of all the wonderful family time over eating peanuts.

  9. says

    Very, very nice post, Lana. I know and love boiled peanuts too. Remember the little ditty, “Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating goober peas – goodness how delicious, eating goober peas”?

    • says

      Some say it’s an “acquired” taste. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ve never known anyone who didn’t like them. There’s a company that sells them in cans in the grocery stores here, but there’s no comparison to the taste of homemade ones. Wish I could get some to you, but shipping frozen stuff to the Netherlands?? Don’t know.

  10. says

    Yep boiled peanuts are definitely a “Southern Thing” and one that I am so happy I found! I first ate boiled peanuts when I was 28, can you imagine. It was a pop warner football game LOL. I never tried making them and since I like them so well I think I should. Thanks for sharing the recipe and your story, both are lovely.

  11. Gigi says

    Lana I am a bookkeeper at a south Georgia peanut buying point. My husband fries peanuts for the customers everyday. He uses a deep fryer with peanut oil – it doesn’t burn. Cooks the shelled peanuts about 3 minutes in very very hot oil. If they look brown they are overcooked. Glad you are letting others know about our southern delicacy boiled peanuts. You have a wonderful blog.

  12. Jennie Paige says

    I am SO jealous that you can find green peanuts. I too have family in Georgia (south east though- Irwinville) and miss dearly boiled peanuts. Can’t find them anywhere in MD.

  13. Lynda Lewis-Larocque says

    ENJOYED YOUR INFORMATION ON BOILING PEANUTS!! VERY VERY INFORMATIVE! I NEVER KNEW MOST OF THIS STUFF! I KNOW I WOULD NEVER FIND GREEN NUTS HERE WHERE I LIVE. I SURE WOULD LOVE TO TRY THEM. I LOVE PEANUTS! I HOPE YOU GET A COOKING SHOW!

  14. Sherri says

    I LOVE boiled peanuts, my mom grew up in southern GA and every time we go and visit our extended family this is a delicacy we all enjoy….that and some Dr. Pepper ;)

  15. Kellie says

    Yay!! Another winner for football games! I looooove boiled peanuts! Definitely bookmarking your blog! My hometown is Hephzibah, Georgia =)

  16. Rashmi Patil says

    Hi, Lana
    i liked your recipes , specially this one !you know why ?I’m form South India it is our loving and yam food in peanut season. thanks for sharing. thanks a lot

  17. Brandi says

    That little town you described sounds like Blakely, Ga. I miss boiled peanuts and used to eat them all the time.

  18. Brandi says

    Wow I lived about 10 miles from Colquitt. It was in that little place called Hentown. My folks owned Whites Grocery I used to work sometimes with my dad there when I wasn’t in school.

  19. Jacky says

    Thanks, Lana for sharing your memories

    I grew up in France and for some reasons I have always been fascinated by peanuts. Maybe because one of my favorite superheroes when I was a kid got his strength from eating peanuts. Who knows…
    I love your peanut story and your blog in general. You have a very warm, lovely sense of humor and your recipes look wonderful. I like the way you defend your southern culinary traditions ( we French people do that too…:) ).

    Thanks again

    Jacky

  20. Patricia says

    Saw a recipe in magazine today. Came home to research tea cake recipes. Found yours and description of town where you grew up, then went to boiled peanuts. Amazing. I am from Baker County, went to school in Colquitt and Damascus. Love boiled peanuts. Find them in farmer’s market here in Virginia Beach. Their early ones come from Georgia and are the best. Your recipe sounds just like the way I boil mine. Don’t like them too salty.

    • says

      Hi Patricia. Isn’t it amazing how people “find” each other on the internet! You wouldn’t believe how often I hear from someone from southwest Georgia looking for those old familiar recipes. I’m so glad you stopped by and hope you’ll visit again.

  21. Linda says

    i just found your receipe for boiled peanut. My daddy grew them in Leslie, Ga. we used to boiled them and put in the frezzer for the winter and summer time. until they came back in the fall. sure do miss those times, and the country side.

  22. says

    Great story! I defnitely learned a few things about peanuts today ;-)
    Never knew you could boil them, for a start, and legumes? Who knew. ;-)
    I doubt if we will ever find green peanuts in South Africa, but I wil sure try them if I ever travel to the USA.

    • Lana Stuart says

      Hi Anneri – I’m glad I could teach you something about peanuts! I don’t know if you have green peanuts in South Africa, either, but I hope you get to try them some day!

  23. jenny says

    Hi Lana, great intro to the peanuts! I grew up in Malaysia (South East Asia region) and my mom used to make boiled peanuts this way too! Sometime we get green peanuts in farmers market or asian groceries here in San Francisco. :)

  24. Beth says

    From the description, I thought you lived in the town of Cuthbert. That was my father’s mother’s family town for over 100 years.

    The recipe for boiled peanuts is just right. So many people do not know the best recipe. Make sure they are green peanuts (fresh or, if must, frozen in water) & not those big ones. The regular size peanuts are best. My husband cooks them & we (plus my daughter) can go through a gallon in just a couple of hours.

    • Lana Stuart says

      I grew up a little further south in Colquitt (Miller County). However, I had a great aunt who lived in Cuthbert and was the post master there for many years.

  25. Alanya says

    Thank you. Peanut, I love and love it. The earthy smell is amazing. I was born in a small town in southern Turkey. As I was a little girl my grand mother used too cook this way as well. Now I live in U.K. and miss the fresh green peanuts.

  26. Donna O says

    I LOVE boiled peanuts. I grew up in the peanut capital of the world, Dothan, Alabama. I’m married to a man from Texas, and he can’t get the southern pronunciation right. He keeps calling them “bawled peanuts” as if they had something to do with the Texas “awl bidness”. An important bit of info you surely need to know (try not to be too overwhelmed with it all): I was in the first National Little Miss Peanut Contest. I know–hard to take in the honor of knowing me! LOL!!! So glad to have found your site. Looking forward to getting your recipes.
    Blessings…

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