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Boiled peanuts -- a true southern treat

Delicious fresh-boiled peanuts.
Delicious fresh-boiled peanuts.
flikr: Natalie Maynor

Whenever we head down south, my family and I enjoy a treat that's so uniquely southern, it's South Carolina's official state snack food -- boiled peanuts.

Have you and your kids ever tried boiled peanuts? This is a tasty, easy snack to make together that is also healthy and fun. You can experiment with flavors and techniques, learn a little history and sample a classic taste of the south wherever you are.

Boiled peanuts (the "Goober Peas" of the song) have a long history. Many people think they started with the Civil War, but the truth is they have their roots (literally) in Africa. The term "goober" even comes from the Angolan word "ginguba". For a fascinating look at its past, check out this article from the Charleston City paper.

Making your own boiled peanuts is very simple, but it takes the right ingredients. The normal roasted/salted in shell peanuts you find at the grocery store won't work -- they'll dissolve into a kettle of peanut sludge. You need either "green" or "raw" peanuts. "Green" peanuts are fresh out of the ground and work best, but are nearly impossible to obtain unless you're in the South during harvest season (September to October). "Raw" peanuts, on the other hand, are available year-round. It simply refers to peanuts that have been dried so they'll store properly, but haven't been processed in any way. They are available on Amazon and the Wakefield Peanut Company, among other sites.

Make sure you buy organic peanuts if at all possible. Peanuts are frequently planted in fields in rotation with cotton, which is the crop most heavily treated with pesticides. The peanuts will absorb the pesticides from the soil.

This recipe is adapted from the Food Network.

Ingredients needed:

  • 2 lbs raw (or green) in-shell peanuts
  • 3 oz. salt
  • enough water to float the peanuts
  • spices (more on that later)

Boiling the peanuts:

  1. First, rinse the peanuts to remove any dirt. Put them under running water until it runs clear, then soak it in water for 30 minutes or so to remove any additional dirt. Drain them.
  2. Put the peanuts, salt, and water in a kettle. Stir them well, bring them to a boil, cover them and reduce the heat, and let them boil for 4 hours or so. Add more water if needed.

That's it! The peanuts are done when they hold their shape but are soft (about like a cooked dry bean). Depending on how dry the raw peanuts were, it may take an additional 3-4 hours or even more until they reach the right consistency.

There are other variations on boiling them that you may prefer. A few are included here. Some are made in a crockpot, if you'd prefer to slow cook them.

In addition, many people prefer their boiled peanuts a little spicier (normally called "Cajun" style). The ingredients used include red pepper flakes, crab boil, Old Bay seasoning, and garlic powder.

"Cajun" boiled peanut recipes

I hope you have fun trying these recipes! We're excited about making our own (as soon as the peanuts arrive), and plan on using some of our own home-grown and local peppers. I'll let you know how they turn out.


Want to learn more about Cooking with Kids? Be sure to subscribe to my column to be notified when I publish a new article. And don't forget to check out my Urban Foraging column!

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