Perhaps my favorite thing to eat on the planet are boiled peanuts. (Then again, there are a lot of other things on that list, but let's talk about the peanuts for now.)
Some of you guys aren't that familiar with these little goobers, so howsabout a primer?
Boiled peanuts are just that: Peanuts that are boiled (in-shell) in salt water. They can be served hot or cold, and are a popular snack in a lot of the South, particularly in the summertime. Because they're boiled, they're soft (not unlike a cooked bean).
They can be made with any raw peanut, but the best ones are made with green peanuts, which are fresh peanuts that haven't been dried. They create these wonderful little boiled peanuts that are fresh-tasting and impossible to stop eating. They're very hard to get out of season or away from where they're grown, so summer time down South is prime time for these little guys.
You can also make boiled peanuts with dried raw peanuts, but these don't turn out as well. I can get dried raw peanuts in Chicago, but because they don't contain their own moisture, you have to soak them overnight before cooking, and then cook them in a crock pot for about a day. Still, beats nothing.
You can find boiled peanuts in roadside stands and small grocery stores throughout the South, but I'll let you in on some of the very best boiled peanuts on the planet.
1) Lakeside Market: Sumter, SC
This is a little market that sells fresh produce and potted plants and such. It's run by an older gentleman that grew up on the land on which the market now sits. He ran several other stores, and eventually moved back to the corner on which his house once stood and built this little place. They boil their own peanuts in the store, and he says they have it down to a science, so the peanuts turn out consistently good, batch after batch. They're a little on the small side, but they are good. If you like your peanuts hot, this might not be your spot. They keep their peanuts in paper bags in a refrigerator.
2) Allsbrook's Boiled Peanuts: Manning, SC
I grew up on Allsbrook's. This place made the peanuts by which I will always judge all other peanuts. They were made at a little roadside market on the way to Lake Marion, and were sold all over Clarendon County. At some point, the business changed hands (I hear there was scandal involved), the business lay dormant for a few years (known as the Great Boiled Peanut Drought of 19-odd-something) and later the daughter or daughter-in-law of Allsbrook started turning out peanuts (though not under the Allsbrook's name. They were Funny's Boiled Peanuts. They were almost as good, though). Of late, I understand that someone in the Allsbrook family has gotten their hands on a peanut pot again, and Allsbrook's peanuts are back. I haven't gotten my hands on any yet, but maybe soon.
3) The cooler in the back of a pickup truck: Near Eastover, SC
Where highway 378 meets highway 601, there is a little parking lot of an abandoned store. In that lot, a dude has been selling peanuts for at least a decade. He's got signs out on 601 about a hundred yards from his spot in either direction. The signs are hand-lettered on plywood. "boiled p-Nuts". Lowercase, except for the "N" in "nuts". You can get "new crop" or "old crop" peanuts. He has two big metal cookers on a trailer where the peanuts get the business, and I have a suspicion that he might use just a tiny touch of fatback in process, because the peanuts are uber-flavorful. I recommend the 'new crop'. He keeps the peanuts in ziplocks in a cooler to keep them warm after cooking, so warm peanut lovers take note.
This is just a tiny cross-section.
A full book is in the works.
Anyway. Boiled peanuts are good, man.