Long before industrial snack foods and convenience stores were imagined, boiled peanuts fed the car driving public’s craving for salty snacks. Throughout the American South, roadside vendors set up high BTU propane burners and kettles at gas stations, fruit stands, and empty lots to serve locally grown peanuts in a style as old as the dirt they grew in.
Thanks to an influx of Southeast Asian farmers, Californians with a Dixie heritage can fill their cravings for an absent favorite. Peanuts feature prominently in cuisines influenced by the Chinese diaspora, so inquire among the Hmong, Vietnamese, and Thai specialty growers at your local L.A. area farmers market.
Raw, or “green” peanuts, still moist from the damp earth in which it grew, more closely resemble pod beans than tree nuts. Botanically speaking, they are legumes. As these freshly harvested peanuts dry, they harden and take on a more nut like character. Boiled peanuts don’t have the crunch you’d expect from the dry roasted variety, but a wet, briny, bean like texture, more like edamame’s country cousin.
The local season lasts through the end of December.
Basic Boiled Peanuts
1 pound green, or raw, peanuts
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a pot, and bring to a boil. You can adjust the brine strength to your preference, but a long boil will increase the salt concentration.
Reduce heat, and cover with a lid cracked opened slightly.
Gently simmer for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally so the peanuts don’t stick to the bottom and burn.