Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Southern at Heart

This is quickly climbing my favorite cookbooks list:

This cookbook has lovely stories and the recipes are fun to read. "Fun to read, you say?" Well, it's fun to compare other southerner's recipes with my own and those of my family. Southern cooking is an art form. It's a way of life. It will always point to home.

To me, southern cooking is embodied in the summer by fresh vegetables, cornbread muffins (Lula's recipe), the best seafood (often a competition among my uncles) and my dad's fig ice cream. Winter brings the same divine Dressing casserole, Lala's Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Casserole and Smoked Turkey to our Christmas and Thanksgiving tables each year. The list goes on, and hopefully I will be able to share some of my family's southern recipes with you.

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.

Boiled Peanuts

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.

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Sarah Barry Spooner said...

Dorothy...way to represet us up there. Your table looks BEAUTIFUL.

And good golly do I love a boiled peanut!

Barefoot Belle said...

My friend Megan (aka The Fearless Fowler) just sent me this article:

It sent me into a fog of memories of my past. The sound of the whip-poor-wills at the beach; the taste of mom's fig preserves while still hot on the stove; Lula's yeast rolls which I never could quite master; the vague memory of dove hunting with dad as a child.

It is a fabulous article and worth a read. Thanks, Megan!

Heather said...

Hi Dorothy!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. It's always nice to run across another Southern Belle. I love the Lee Bros. cookbook. Have you tried the cheese straws? I made them last night and they were very yummy with a bowl of tomato soup. I will have to try the husband loves boiled peanuts.
Thanks again...take care!