Boiled Peanuts – South Carolina

South Carolina SC Gifts SC Boiled Peanuts Peanuts, goober peas, groundnuts – no matter what you call them, most South Carolinians agree they taste better boiled! Enjoyed year-round in the Palmetto State, boiled peanuts can be found everywhere from fairs and festivals to sporting events and roadside stands. In fact, they are such an important part of South Carolina culture, they were designated our official state snack in 2006:

The General Assembly finds that boiled peanuts are a delicious and popular snack food that are found both in stores and roadside stands across the State, and this unique snack food is defined as peanuts that are immersed in boiling water for at least one hour while still in the shell. The General Assembly further finds that this truly Southern delicacy is worthy of designation as the official state snack food. (Act 270)

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SC Boiled Peanuts: A Dixie Delicacy

The peanut has long been a staple of South Carolina farms and plays an important role in our state's folk and cultural history. Some stories indicate that boiling peanuts can be traced back to the Civil War, when Confederate soldiers used the legume as an important source of protein during food shortages. As The Local Palate, a Charleston-based magazine, explains, "By boiling the peanuts in salted water, the Confederate troops were able to sanitize the nuts, preserve them, and add much needed protein to their diet."

Long Creek Boiled Peanuts Stand
( Oconee County Peanut Stand © Do Not Use Without Written Consent )

However, Becky Billingsley, a food historian from Myrtle Beach, explains that this legend is untrue. "During the Civil War there was a shortage of salt," Becky writes, "so it is highly unlikely soldiers used it to boil peanuts. Also, boiling peanuts does not preserve them. In fact, boiled peanuts quickly become slimy and inedible if they're not refrigerated or frozen, which would have been impossible for those soldiers."

Importantly, Becky adds that the real origin of boiled peanuts "can be traced back to African slaves. They were fed raw peanuts from their homeland while on the slave ships coming to the United States, and then they grew them in their gardens by their slave cabins. They boiled peanuts among other culinary preparations and introduced them to their masters' families."

The practice has continued through the years as generations of Southerners have shared this culinary genius. Boiled peanuts have become a South Carolina tradition, and many local communities gather at harvest time to boil the surplus of farmers' unsold peanuts and share in a salty celebration! The South Carolina Peanut Party, held annually in Pelion, is the most famous example.

Nuggets of Nutty Knowledge

• In the South, boiled peanuts are often called "goobers" or "goober peas." Goober is the Gullah adaptation of "nguba" – the African word for peanut.

• Peanuts aren't nuts! They're actually part of the legume or bean family. Unlike other nuts, which grow on trees, peanuts actually begin as a ground flower. The weight of the flower forces it to mature under the soil – hence the name "groundnut."

• The smallest, most immature green peanuts are called "pops" and absorb the most salt during the boiling process. These have softer shells and are usually enjoyed whole!

• Goobers are good for ya! Boiled peanuts are a great source of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

SC Peanut Gallery

SC Boiled Peanuts – How to Make 'Em

Boiling your own peanuts is easy! The most important thing to remember is that you must use raw, unshelled peanuts – roasted peanuts cannot be boiled. Peanut purists say it's best to use "green" peanuts, which are freshly harvested peanuts that have not been dried or dehydrated. Due to their high moisture content, green peanuts have a very limited shelf life and are only available during the harvest season which runs May through November. Seasonal green peanuts can be found online, at your local farmers' market, and even in some grocery stores. Dried raw peanuts can also be used, but require an overnight soaking and a much longer boiling time.

SC Boiled Peanuts

In a large stock pot, dissolve one cup of salt in two gallons of water; add the peanuts and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and maintain a low boil for 45 minutes. Check periodically to ensure that the water is covering the peanuts. Turn the heat off and carefully remove a peanut to sample, allowing it to cool first. If the peanut still crunches, return the pot to a boil. Boiled peanuts should be soft and mushy! Add more salt if desired. When the peanuts reach the desired consistency, turn off the heat and allow them to cool for an hour. When they're cool enough to handle, drain and serve.

Here's a recipe using dried peanuts.

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