Saturday, May 15, 2010

Goober Peas - Cajun Boiled Peanuts

A southern staple, raw peanuts are boiled in a salty, Cajun seasoned water - stovetop, crockpot or pressure cooker.

Cajun Boiled Peanuts

♫Sitting by the roadside on a summer's day
Chatting with my mess-mates, passing time away
Lying in the shadows underneath the trees
Goodness, how delicious, eating goober peas.

Peas, peas, peas, peas
Eating goober peas
Goodness, how delicious,
Eating goober peas.♫

"Goober Peas" by P. Nutt and A. Pindar, 1866

Boiled peanuts - or country caviar as they are often referred as - are a decidedly Southern thang, and even amongst us Southerners, there are two factions. You either love them. Or you hate them. There is rarely a middle ground with boiled peanuts.

Boiling peanuts requires using either green or raw peanuts. The growing season for fresh green peanuts runs between May and September, with major harvests happening generally between August and October each year.

You can pretty much find raw peanuts at your local market anytime of the year.

What's the difference?

It's all in the timing.

Green peanuts come fresh from harvest and are harvested a tad bit early, and much like Southern peas (which like the peanut are actually beans), they have a high-water content and must be refrigerated after harvesting to keep them fresh. They don't keep.

You almost have to live near a peanut farmer to find green peanuts, but if you do find them locally, you will find them in a refrigerator at a roadside stand or in the refrigerator section of a local market, and rarely at a major chain grocery store - unless you live in Georgia.

There are, of course, online resources where you can have green peanuts shipped to you as well, and generally they are available from a quarter bushel up. Green peanuts will cook quickly than raw, generally under 2 hours for a large 5-pound batch, a little less for a single pound.

HOT WET GOOBERS from Southern Foodways on Vimeo.

Raw peanuts, which you'll see everywhere in the South, have been allowed to air dry to reduce the water content and make them much less perishable.

Like dried beans and peas, they will take significantly longer to boil.

I was hoping to wait and find some freshly harvested green peanuts before posting my recipe, but, to be honest, most of us just don't have access to green peanuts anyway, and when we do, we're much more likely to be in Georgia for a visit and just buy them already boiled from a roadside vendor.

The best flavor, by far, is gonna be a freshly boiled green peanut, no doubt.

No different than the taste of a fresh garden tomato from the backyard or the farmer's market versus a grocery store hot house tomato.

That said, logically it makes much more sense to write the recipe for the most common ones around for most of us, the raw grocery store peanut. They are still pretty darned good y'all. Just know that if you are lucky enough to get your hands on freshly harvested green peanuts, you'll be enjoying yours much faster than the rest of us!

To be honest, I once thought boiled peanuts were kinda yucky.

I mean I love hot, freshly roasted peanuts, but mushy, soft peanuts?

Then as happens when we get older, I tried them again and flat out fell in love. So, now I'm of the love 'em camp myself, and in fact, find they are just a bit addictive.

The texture might be off-putting to some folks, since boiling a peanut gives it a very soft, soggy feel to the mouth - very different from the crunchy roasted peanut most people are accustomed to, but, they do kinda grow on you, and even my grandkids love them!

It is believed that Southerners started boiling peanuts back during the Civil War when on the march through Georgia, Confederate troops were split up, and food and supplies became hard to come by. Peanuts became an important source for nutrition, and Confederate soldiers often roasted them over campfires and some began to boil them.

Somewhere along the way somebody used salt when they were boiling them, which made the boiled peanuts last a little bit longer, and hot, boiled and salted peanuts were born in our country.

Boiled peanuts are even available in the can at the local chain grocery markets around here and are very good, but I love to stop and grab a bag of hot, boiled peanuts right out of the pot from the guys who sell them on the roadside.

It feels more authentic to me and I feel like I'm helping them out by buying from them.

Of course, unless you live somewhere in the southeast region of this country, I suspect you won't find many boiled peanuts showing up at roadside vendors or local farmer's markets, so you'll be relegated to making your own.

It's not hard at all, though for stovetop, it can be a bit time consuming, especially when using older raw peanuts.

The problem with out of season, raw peanuts is, that they are generally last year's crop and over time become quite dehydrated, meaning that they can take forever to cook.

While fresh green peanuts can be ready in less than 2 hours, older raw peanuts can take 8 hours, and even much longer, so as long as you are prepared to stew them literally all day long {and sometimes into the next day} you can still have boiled peanuts any time of the year.

For older peanuts, you'll also need to use lots of salt, primarily because you will likely find that you are having to refresh the boiling water continuously to reach the level of softness you want. Otherwise, they will not be seasoned enough.

The biggest key to boiling raw peanuts is that you'll just need to continually sample from the pot to taste them as they cook, until they reach the desired level of tenderness you like. Remember if you're out of season with your boiling, that is, somewhere been November and July, you're likely using last season's leftovers. The older your raw peanuts are, the longer they will need to boil.

This recipe is written for a single 1-pound bag of raw peanuts, but amounts listed in the recipe are very dependent on personal preference to be honest. I like to use crab boil, Cajun seasoning and the optional seasonings listed at the bottom of the recipe - Old Bay seasoning, onion and garlic powder - plus the giardiniera peppers (when I have them) which makes for a nice tingle of spice across the lips.

If you've never made your own boiled peanuts before, just make up a batch to see how the seasoning is for your taste and then make adjustments for your next batch.

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Posted by on May 15, 2010

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