The interesting thing about Matt and Ted Lee is that they are not originally southerners. They were born in New York City and moved to Charleston during their Pre-Adolescent years. When they returned to NYC, it became evident that southern heritage and cooking had a strong hold on their hearts.
If you read the Lee Bros. cookbook, you will discover that they began a southern shipping company after they tried selling boiled peanuts in New York. This launched them into a world of southern food, and they began developing their own southern style. The book is full of classic southern recipes, many from South Carolina Locals and more their own take on those classics. I loved comparing their pear chutney recipe with my own and I cannot wait to try their grits casserole. Their buttermilk sweet potato pie, however, was quite possibly the sole reason that I could not wait to buy this book. Of course, the book has a recipe for boiled peanuts, too.
Boiled peanuts are quintessentially southern, and are sold at many gas stations and road side stands throughout the south. Despite my love all things southern, I had never made boiled peanuts, and really did not eat them unless I was with my friend Becky who always bought them from a man in the mall parking lot. We had a few friends over for a barbecue this week, mostly southerners, and I decided that it was time. I made boiled peanuts. And for just a few hours, I was home.
From the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
2 pounds raw peanuts, unshelled
1 1/2 cups salt, plus more to taste
4 gal. water, plus more as needed
In a 3-gallon stockpot, dissolve ½ cup of salt in 2 gallons of water and add the peanuts. (The peanuts will float, but you can keep most of them submerged by using a dinner plate as a cap.)* Allow the peanuts to soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Discard the soaking water. Fill the pot with 2 gallons of fresh water and the remaining cup of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook at a low boil, covered, for 5 to 8 hours. Keep the water in the pot at roughly the same level with hourly additions of 2 cups water until the peanuts are soft. (South Carolina-style peanuts are very soft, but some cooks prefer them al dente.)
When the peanuts have boiled for 3 hours, check them for texture and saltiness. Allow a peanut to cool, then crack open the shell to get at the kernels inside. If you find them too salty, remove some brine with a ladle or small pot and replace it with an equal amount of fresh water. If the peanuts are not salty enough, add salt in ¼-cup increments, turn off the heat, and let them soak for an hour to absorb the salt. If the peanuts are too crunchy for your taste, boil on. It can take as long as 12 hours if you prefer them mushroom-soft. Sample them every hour.**
When the peanuts are cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and cool for 1 hour. Drain and eat immediately or store (in the shell) in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. Boiled peanuts will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer.
*I used a steam basket turned upside down over the peanuts to keep the peanuts submerged, and used it during cooking too.
**Mine were perfect at 6 hours.