As I was driving to visit my oldest son and his family after church, I noticed that many of the billboards along Interstate 95 were encouraging people to have a “flavor adventure” by enjoying some good South Carolina-grown boiled peanuts. To my pleasant surprise, my son had several gallon bags of seasoned boiled peanuts on hand for our afternoon enjoyment. I thought about resisting the urge because Southern boiled peanuts are almost addicting, but, because I hadn’t eaten any since last summer, I gave in to the urge and I was so glad I did.
While most people don’t add anything but water and salt -- maybe a light pinch of sugar, too, to their peanuts before they boil and simmer. Some people are much more adventurous when it comes to food and cook their peanuts with hamhocks or slices of thick cured bacon (which are removed from the pot before the peanuts are drained and served). Some folks sprinkle various other dry seasonings such as Cajun seasonings in the water.
The key is to use “green” peanuts, which means the peanuts are raw, fresh peanuts from the field and they haven’t been “dried” yet. (You see, folks set peanuts out to “dry” if they are going to roast them in the oven. Many Southerners call roasted peanuts “parched” peanuts.) And please note that peanuts freeze well, so you can cook plenty and put fully cooked peanuts in freezer bags in the freezer to use all year.
As an added bonus this week, because fresh strawberry and peach season are winding down, I am offering an amazing but simple, tea cake recipe that you could use for just about any fruit. It almost works like magic if you follow the instructions very carefully.
(This is a basic recipe that may be doubled, tripled as needed.)
2 to 3 pounds of green peanuts
About 1/2 cup salt, or more depending on how salty you like your peanuts
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1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
In a basin, bowl or other large container wash the peanuts thoroughly until the outer hulls are totally clean. Put the peanuts in an appropriate-size pot. Cover the peanuts generously with water. Add the salt (and sugar) and stir gently for a minute or so. Bring the peanuts to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer. Simmer for one to two hours. Conduct a taste test by removing a large peanut, setting it aside to cool for a minute, opening it, and testing the peanut within for “doneness” via its texture. When the peanuts are “done” remove them from the heat and let them “sit” in the water for at least 15 to 30 minutes so some of the salt (or seasoning) will soak in to the hulls before you drain the water from them. Again, allow them to cool a few minutes if you and your crowd are ready to devour them. Let them cool completely if you plan to bag them up and freeze them. Use thick, quality freezer bags and seal them well so none of the goodness will escape. Ah! Enjoy!
1/2 stick butter (Land ‘O Lakes)
1 cup self-rising flour (White Lily)
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups fresh strawberries OR peaches, cut into small pieces and sweetened to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in an 8-x12-inch glass or metal baking dish. Remove the dish from the oven, but leave the oven on to preheat. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, milk and cinnamon until the ingredients form a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the baking dish on top of the melted butter. DO NOT STIR IT.
In a separate bowl, sprinkle the sweetened strawberry OR peach pieces with the lemon juice. Pour these fruit pieces into the center of the baking dish, on top of the batter. AGAIN, DO NOT STIR IT. Bake this tea cake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Always serve tea cake warm. It is yummy enough alone, but you may choose to top each piece with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, a scoop of ice cream or dollop of whipped cream.