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Hot peanuts get cool reception up North

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Updated: November 25, 2012 6:04AM



‘Hot Boiled Peanuts” announced the the hand-painted signs on many a South Carolina shack.

If you’re from the North, you may be unfamiliar with boiled peanuts and not interested in trying them. While attending Greenville’s Euphoria food festival, we had two drivers, both named Ed and both formerly from the Midwest. Neither had ever dared eat a boiled peanut.

For Yankees, eating warm, wet peanuts may sound unappetizing. When boiled, peanuts acquire a bean-like characteristic, like edamame, salty and soft. Breaking the shell, water dribbles out.

We liked them.

At September’s Chicago Gourmet, I mentioned to Bon Appetit’s Andrew Knowlton that “it might take your average Northerner some time to get used to boiled peanuts.”

“Yeah, about 30 seconds,” the former Floridian responded. He’s right. Given half-a-chance, boiled peanuts are highly enjoyable, good buddies to cold beers.

In Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea, Andrew F. Smith conjectures that although boiling peanuts is an African tradition, selling them started in South Carolina.

The best we ate were from Ken “The Peanut Man” Reeder, in Traveler’s Rest, S.C.

“Been eating boiled peanuts my whole life. Grandpa used to make ‘em.,” said Reeder. “When he passed, I started making ’em myself. The aroma was out there and folks would come in and ask could they buy ’em.”

Although Reeder can get fresh green peanuts during the brief harvest season, he stopped serving them because customers were just too disappointed when the season was over and fresh green peanuts gone.

To boil peanuts at home, find dried peanuts at places such as Fresh Farms in Niles or order fresh green ones online. Knowlton gets his from www.hardyfarmspea nuts.com.

Ava George Stewart is a local attorney who hails from South Carolina and says boiling peanuts is “like cooking dried peas, but for every gallon of water, add a cup of salt.”

For most Northerners, though, boiled peanuts are a hard sell. Chef Andrew Brochu told us he had to take boiled peanuts off his menu at now-shuttered Kith & Kin. They didn’t sell.

In South Carolina, one of our Midwestern-born drivers finally sampled boiled peanuts. He mumbled, “They’re OK.”

Yankees just don’t understand hot-boiled goobers.

E-mail detective@suntimes.com.



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