AUBURN, Ala. – Football season is back in full swing, bringing another southern tradition along with it – boiled peanuts. “They’re just part of tailgating,” said Jimmy Jones, county Extension coordinator for Henry County.
Boiled peanuts are not only good for gameday. They are historically and economically important to agriculture, especially in the Southeast.
Peanuts grow best in sandy soil, which is found in the Southeast and particularly in southeastern Alabama. Today, peanut farmers use advanced technology to know when they can dig their crops. However, before such technology was available, they had other techniques.
“Boiled peanuts don’t shell very well when they get totally mature,” Jones said. “About two or three weeks before they’re mature, they are in the boiling phase.” Farmers used to boil some of their peanut crop, and if they boiled well, they knew they should dig the rest of their crop in two or three weeks.
“They realized, ‘Hey, these things are pretty good boiled,’” Jones said. And thus, southerners’ love for boiled peanuts was born.
“In the south, we have made boiled peanuts part of the tailgating tradition,” Jones added. He said boiled peanuts are the most popular tailgating snack at every sporting level from college to peewee games.
“A lot of our small farmers might be boiling peanuts and selling them at games as a source of income; that’s been a pretty good living for these guys,” Jones said. “We are a very peanut proud area.”
How to boil peanuts
The Alabama Peanut Producers Association provided tips to boil peanuts for football fans who want to bring the southern tradition to their tailgate:
“Wash peanuts thoroughly in cool water; then soak in clean water for about 30 minutes before cooking.”
“Put peanuts in a saucepan and cover completely with water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt for each pint of peanuts.”
“The cooking period for boiled peanuts varies according to the maturity of the peanuts used and variety of the peanut. The cooking time for a ‘freshly-pulled’ green peanut is shorter than for a peanut which has been stored for a time. The best way to prepare them is to cook them as soon as they are picked.”
“There is no firm method for cooking boiled peanuts. The shells of some peanuts absorb more salt than others, so it is best to begin with 1 tablespoon of salt per pint of peanuts. Then add more salt to taste later. The texture of the peanut when fully cooked should be similar to that of a cooked dry pea or bean. Boil the peanuts for about 35 minutes, then taste. If they are not salted enough, add more salt. Taste again in 10 minutes, both for salt content and to see if the peanuts are fully cooked. If not ready, continue tasting every five minutes until they have a satisfactory texture.”
“Drain peanuts after cooking, or they will continue to absorb salt and become over-salted.”