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Boiling Peanuts at Home

By Guntis Sunday, September 24, 2006

Well, the local peanuts are in.  The SC Peanut Party used to get them locally, but lately has been buying them on the open market.  Perhaps because the Party is so early - more than a few folks fussed because for the last several years it has been held the first weekend after school starts.  I heard that the date is supposed to change next year.

My peanuts come from one of my neighbors.  He's now retired, but has been selling them for a many years (even before retiring) to raise a bit of extra cash.  I put my order in a few months ago to make sure I could get a bushel.

In the past a few people - mainly from up north - have asked me about boiling peanuts.  My friends and neighbors already know how to do it - those are the ones I learned from.   This is the way I do it at home, with a bit of help from my Better Half.

What you need:

*Green peanuts are straight from the field, have not been dried, and are still somewhat moist.  Raw (also known as dried or parched) peanuts take a lot longer to boil.   There is a distinction between raw and green peanuts.  Raw peanuts have been dried for better storage.

The process I'm going to describe is for green peanuts.  For the dried peanuts you can follow the same steps but the boiling time will be much longer.  I've only boiled green peanuts, so have no experience with the raw peanuts.

Here's the peanuts as I received them. Note the recycled bushel box - it contained some vegetable originally.


A close up of the peanuts.  L.C had wahed them, though there was still a bit of sand and such here and there.


My setup for the first step - cleaning and sorting.  About half the peanuts are in the cooler - the only container I had big enough to hold them - filled with water.  To the left of the cooler is a large colander for rinsing the peanuts, and then bowls to hold them.


This picture is for refence.


While I was cleaning the first batch, the water was coming to a boil.  It takes a good while to get this much water to a rolling boil, so before cleaning the first batch of peanuts I put the heat to the water.  This is about a 60 quart(?) stock pot used for deep frying turkeys (among other chores).  There's about a pound and a half to two pounds of salt in there.


Another view of the cleaning station.  The peanuts, after being 'swished' around in the cooler, are transfered in small batches to the collander, where they're rinsed using the hose.  I case you're wondering, the stand is two garbage cans that had rusted through so they couldn't hold garbage any longer.  I dug into the grond a bit, leveled the tops of the cans, then tied a piece of metal shelving to the top.  Very useful for various washing chores.  The shelf is from a TI work truck that I purchased years ago (more recycling).


A here's a shot of the boiling peanuts.


The other part of the reference shot.  This is after cleaning the first half bushel.  Note that the drain is no longer visible.


This is the final mess of peanuts.  The first boiling was two white bowls full of peanuts, as was the second.  The third was just the larger steel bowl, and the last was the smaller steel bowl.  There was a method to this.  The small steel bowl has the 'worst' of the peanuts which were not frozen, but were eaten over the next few days.  As I rinsed the peanuts I sorted them into good and not so good.  All of the good peanuts were bagged and frozen.  We also do this when freezing corn (and other produce) - the good ears get frozen, the not so good get boiled a bit longer and eaten.  Sorting the produce this way insures that it will keep well for a long time.


The peanuts boiled for right at an hour.  The time depends on the peanuts, the strength of the boil, the amount of salt, the time of day, and the level of sunshine.  Really.  With the first batch I tasted a few for done-ness about 25 minutes after starting to boil.  On the next batches I started checking at about 45 minutes.  Once the peanuts reached the doneness we prefer, I turned off the heat and moved them to other stainless steel containers (one bowl and one small stock pot).  Then enough of the salt water was removed from the boiling pot to cover the peanuts in the soaking vessels.  You can see I added a plate and weight (clean jar, filled with water) to make sure the peanuts stay submerged.  As with the doneness, we periodically tasted the peanuts for saltiness.  After they were salty enought for us we removed them from the water, placed them in zip-top freezer bags, and put them in the freezer.


They can also be canned, but I don't know of anyone who does that. 

This is a gallon bag.  Note the straw in the bottom left corner.  I use it to pull out most of the air.  This is before the air is removed.


This is the bag after the air has been removed.  Notice that the bag below has lost the puffiness of the previous picture.


In the past the recommendation was to allow the bags to come to room temp, then put in the freezer.  I have read that this was due to concerns about putting too heavy a load on the freezer or possibly partially thawing other food in the freezer (if a really hot item is placed in the freezer against something already frozen).  Today's freezers can handle the heat with no problem.  Once the bags are easy to handle (so you can hold them indefinitely) we put them in. 

Altogether we froze 12 gallons bags, plus had two and a half large (16 ounce) containers to eat.

Here's a recap.

Fill the pot with water to more than cover the peanuts.  Add salt to the water - I filled the pot about half way up and added a pound of salt*, then the two bowls of peanuts.  The amount of salt is not critical (within reason).  Boil the peanuts for about 45 minutes - a slow steady boil or simmer is OK for green peanuts, a slightly harder boil may be better for the dried peanuts.  Note that some recipes call for soaking dried peanuts for 8 hours or overnight before boiling for several hours.  

Possibly at around 30 minutes (for green peanuts) fish out one or two from the pot and taste them.  At this point you want to get the peanuts to the doneness you prefer.  Some like them 'mushier', some like them firmer.  Once the peanuts have the consistency you prefer, turn off the heat.  If the peanuts are as salty as you'd like them, you can drain and eat, or put in freezer bags and freeze for long term storage.  They'll last a year (if not eaten before then) or longer frozen.  About 5 days in the refrigerator.

If they are not yet as salty as you like them, just let them soak in the water for however long it takes to reach the level of saltiness you prefer.  Since I had to boil several batches, I soaked the peanuts in separate containers using brine from the boiling pot.  More salt was added to the boiling pot because of the added water to make up for the brine removed for soaking.  If you are only boiling one batch, just turn off the heat and let the peanuts soak in the boiling pot.

* A note on saltiness.  The first batch never did get very salty, even after soaking for more than two hours.  We moved the first batch to a plastic bowl.  The brine had cooled enough after an hour to not affect the plastic.  The second batch, boiled in saltier water, was ready before the first batch - about an hour of soaking.  The first batch never did get as salty as we would have liked them - they are still good, just not very salty.  There may be two reasons for this.  We noticed during the taste testing for doneness that the peanuts in the first batch were not very salty.  For the next batch we boiled with a bit higher heat and added a good bit more salt.  My guess is that we doubled the amount of salt in the pot.  The third batch was also ready after about an hour of soaking.  The last batch got a bit too salty - we got side-tracked and left the peanuts soaking about three hours.  These are salty!  Note that we are on a very low salt diet here so what we consider very salty may be wonderful for others.  Shirley  took some to the Women's Club meeting and served them.  They got eaten with no complaints. Shirley did reboil them for a few minutes to warm them up and then drained them.

On a previous page I made this statement:  "as the peanuts boil they will darken, as will the brine."  Dan_O wrote about his father's business boiling and selling peanuts.  He informed me that the darkening is caused by using aluminum pots and utensils.  I used all stainless steel this time and there was no darkening other than the color change due to the boiling.

When we put the peanuts in the freezer we placed the bags on a heavy aluminum half cookie sheet.  We used another cookie sheet to seperate layers of bags.  This way the bags freeze flat and stack better.

Serving suggestions.  Remove from the freezer and put in your 'fridge to thaw.  Can be eaten cold after thawing.  If you prefer (or are in a hurry), you can boil then for a few minutes, let them sit for a few more to get totally warm.  The exact time would depend on your stove, the amount of water, whether the peanuts are cool (thawed) or still frozen.  After the peanuts have been warmed, eat.  I suppose you could reheat them in a microwave, but we've not tried that.

That's about it.  Any questions, ask and I'll try to answer.  And I know that if there are any mistakes those that have done it longer than I have will let me know so I can make needed corrections. 

In addition to Dan_O, I have to thank Herman, Dot, Lenda, L.C, and Roy for their advice over the years.