Within 2 miles of my house in West Ashley, I can find six or seven roadside stands selling boiled peanuts.
I prefer to buy ’em when they’re still warm. It’s a challenge to eat ’em while you’re driving, because the salty juice will run down your arm and drip from the elbow.
Did you know boiled peanuts are the state snack? What makes a good boiled peanut? And why does it take so much longer to cook ’em than it does to eat ’em?
As we enter the final full month of summer, let’s dissect the essence of what makes the boiled peanut so pleasing to some and so offensive to others.
If you’ve never really stuck your taste buds out there, then commit this very weekend to the salty pleasure.
If you’re still unsure what the heck I’m even talking about, then here’s a quick course in boiled peanutology.
Can’t eat just one
Essentially, we’re talkin’ raw peanuts boiled in salt water. Boiled peanuts are primarily the roadside product of choice from May to November.
They’re also sold in cans in many grocery stores, but that’s just not fair to the peanut or the grocery store to judge the product in that presentation.
Green peanuts make the best boiled peanuts. A green peanut is one recently harvested. It’s not really green, as a matter of fact, it’s almost white.
All over the Lowcountry there are peanut entrepreneurs known as Tony, Timbo, Mike, Mr. Creel or Antwoine who serve loyal customers by the bag full. In addition to the regular flavor, there’s also ham or Cajun.
There’s a really hot corner just outside Moncks Corner where a boiled peanut war recently started.
Along S.C. Highway 402, just past the Tailrace Canal, two peanut vendors are going at it. They’re barely 30 feet from each other and a price war has reached the boiling point.
At last check, the boy under the umbrella was selling for $2 a bag. That’s a full dollar less than his competition. Usually, a $3 bag is a bargain.
Peanut lovers are shell-shocked.
If you decide to eat boiled peanuts in the car, there’s also a price to pay. Not only is there some danger of dripping on upholstery or your own clothing, there’s also the inherent problem of what to do with the empty shell. A separate bag is ideal. But unless somebody else is in the front seat assisting with the opening, eating and tossing, then there’s an outside chance there’s gonna be a wreck.
And we haven’t even discussed the possibility the salty juice, still warm, if not hot, might spill in your lap!
Some people freeze their boiled peanuts and bring ’em out later. There’s nothing remotely appetizing to that approach.
There’s nothing wrong with warming them up in a microwave for a few seconds, but to tell you the truth, if you let ’em sit around a day or so, they get a little slimy.
Actually, I’ve never known a boiled peanut to last much longer than an hour at my house. Even though they’ll keep, I tend to eat them as if there’s an expiration date.
Those who sell these savory, salty snacks for a living boil ’em for hours. But I know folks who have started making boiled peanuts in pressure cookers and crock pots. The pressure cooker sounds like the way to go because you can have a batch done in about 30 minutes.
For the ultimate boiled peanut experience, here’s the deal: buy ’em, then eat ’em outside so you can just toss the shell on the ground.
Also, there are times when it’s best to use your teeth to open them, not your fingers. That way, there’s no harm done when the juice oozes from the shell and tastes a bit like the brine of a wave at Folly Beach.
It’s a fine Southern snack, but it’s an acquired taste. If you stop by a roadside stand today, acquire a bag for me. If they’re still waging the war in Moncks Corner, I’ll take two.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org.