I love boiled peanuts. Despite basically growing up in Virginia-peanut-central, where all elementary school social studies classes toiled under the watchful eye and impressive moustache of George Washington Carver year round (not just honoring the brilliant scientist, early environmentalist, and nitrogen-fixing-peanut-pioneer in February/if then! as in many schools), boiled peanuts were never a thing for me in childhood.
Hubbies—in the opinion of my mother highly superior to Whitley’s but don’t tell anyone—at a cocktail party, definitely. While my brother would be catting around stealing nips from abandoned drinks, I’d be innocently and judiciously polishing off the contents of an omnipresent cut-crystal dish of salty roasted peanuts placed exactly at childhood eye level. But briny, wet, steamy-hot flavor bombs dipped from deep brown glistening waters of unknown origin full of mysterious spices into nested styrofoam cups? I didn’t discover that until I was grown and zipping around the backroads of the deep American south.
When native-New-Yorker Sweetheart and I drove to New Orleans many Decembers ago via the Natchez Trace, stopping in to visit Miss McKay in Oxford, Mississippi, he said to me “I thought when I moved from New York to Virginia ‘oh, it will be so wild and strange to live in the south‘ but looking around here… that’s not the south. This is the south.” As the legendary Barry Hannah said “In Mississippi it is difficult to achieve a vista.” And he’s right, the dun brown winter flatlands—pecan trees festooned with latent choking dormant kudzu—roll juuuust enough to prevent seeing above the next rise. Vistas notwithstanding Mississippi does, however, achieve many opportunities to spoon up a steaming hot cup of boiled peanuts from a roadside stand or ubiquitous gas-station slow cooker.
For me, boiled peanuts are the ultimate roadtrip snack. You get two styrofoam cups (one for the nuts, one for the shells) and sit them both in the cupholder and go to town. One hand on the wheel, one wet, three fingered claw dipping into the cup and wiping on your pants, driving into the sunset with your hands wrinkled from salt and peanut juices, trying make it to Savannah before the blue laws shut the city down for the entirety of Sunday.
Honestly, since they’re wet and drippy and tend to explode with their deeply-spiced-brown juices when squeezed, boiled peanuts are actually terrible for eating in the car. I am reminded of Bap’s wedding where they SERVED BOILED PEANUTS AS HORS D’OEUVRES AT COCKTAIL HOUR (expert level). Since I was pregnant at the time, I volunteered to drive everyone the three hours home as late as we could stand it. The plan was to meet at the car at midnight and at 12:15 our last buddy appeared out of the inky blackness with a six pack of Coors and three gallon ziplocs of boiled peanuts lifted from the buffet, the entirety of which the passengers consumed in the dark hours and winding turns of our late night journey home. The backseat of our car is still brown. #noregerts.
I suppose the reason that wanderlust and boiled peanuts go hand in hand for me is heretofore I have only ever had boiled peanuts on the go. Dueling slowcookers (one cajun, one regular) do not make an appearance at my local gas station. Roadside shacks featuring an unimaginably giant pot set over a turkey fryer do not dot the byways of my daily travel. So, like macarons or pintxos, boiled peanuts have always felt place-specific, suited for adventure, best when discovered in the wild, unicorn-style. Even though I literally say “I should make these at home” every time I eat them, I never do, never have.
UNTIL NOW. BOOM! Did you see that coming? To be honest, it was another wanderlust whim that led me to making my first (and second. and third) batch of boiled peanuts myself. Visiting Katie down in North Carolina a few weeks ago, she and I took the kiddoes to Cherokee to do what one does in Cherokee (namely: dip our bones in the sacred waters of the Oconoluftee river/buy moccasins). We were crestfallen when multiple hand-painted signs advertising boiled peanuts led us to an abandoned stall, with nary a goober pea in sight. I repeated my refrain…Mississippi vista…Bap’s wedding…scuppernong juice on the upholstery…one time my friend (who was also my boss at the time) responded with ‘boiled peanuts: get in my face!’ when I told her by text I was taking the week off to go to Georgia…I should make these at home… blah blah blah etc. etc. The very next day, tasked with getting groceries for our weekend adventures, LO what should I see on the shelf at the local Ingles but a 10lb bag of raw peanuts for $9.99. Not on my list, but into my cart it went! 24 hours and the valiant labors of a tiny vacation-house-crock-pot later and, my friends, magic was made.Like most great things, this isn’t a recipe, per se, more like general instructions that you can tweak to your liking. Also like the greatest things, you can’t really mess this up. Just make sure to keep your peanuts hot after you cook them or fridge/freeze ’em before they get funky. I just keep mine in the slow cooker on low for dayzzzz until I finish them and it’s been hunky dory*.
Also: DID YOU KNOW BABIES LOVE BOILED PEANUTS? Talk about a snack! For babes who are too young to eat hard nuts but who love flavors, these are incredible. While certainly salty, since these are, in fact, nuts, they have much more staying power in the belly than your average serving of goldfish. Interesting nutritional facts on BP’s here. Antioxidant Isoflavones! Who knew! Older kiddoes also have a blast peeling and eating them (and that sensory, tactile barrier to entry means they also last way longer than a pouch etc.). Of course, THESE ARE PEANUTS. So peanut allergies and all that jazz applies.
- Raw Peanuts in the shell.
- 1/4 c. Salt
- 2 tbsp. Ball’s Cajun Seasoning (I use Ball’s because it has an alligator on the label and is also delicious…but you could literally use anything… keep in mind that many spice blends also contain salt, Ball’s does. If yours does- or doesn’t- you might want to adjust the amount of salt you use up or down)
- Slow Cooker (I have a 6qt)
Fill your slow cooker with peanuts. Fill your slow cooker with water. Add salt + spices. Cook on low for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Eat a few at 16 hours. Pretty damn good. Let ’em keep going. If water level dips below peanuts, add some more. When peanuts are to your desired level of softness, ladle out with a slotted spoon. And you don’t eat the shells, darlings.
* a note on food safety from Dr. Rob, resident dobro player/medic/boiled peanut aficionado who brought me a frozen gallon bag of spicy and delicious BP’s to the beach this summer: botulism is real and dangerous! If you put your slow cooker on “warm” instead of “low” pop a thermometer to make sure yer peanuts stay at at least 156° .
* another note from Dr. Rob about peanut water: You can use the same water forever, it just gets spicier and weirder and more wonderful. When the peanuts are gone, fridge or freeze the water, and bring it to a rolling boil again before using the next time.
Because discussing botulism and recommending salty peanut snacks to babies other than my own makes me nervous:
*I am a plebeian layperson. While the information herein is carefully researched and checked for accuracy, the author makes no warranty regarding the content of this website and will not be liable for any loss, damage, or injury arising from the use of any information on the site.
I am not a medical professional and the advice on this site should not be taken as such. It is not the business of the author to render professional opinions or medical advice. Readers should always seek professional medical advice from their pediatrician, OB/GYN, or midwife, blah blah blah.
Thanks to lucieslist for the language.