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Cotton and Peanuts (Recipe: Parched Peanuts)

January 16, 2012
parched peanuts, peanut brittle 035

In the early 1900s,  Alabama was a  major cotton producer.    Cotton mills, spread throughout small towns,  converted cotton bolls to fabric and they were the epicenter of the town’s  economy.   Alabama was centrally  located  in the Cotton Belt and was called the Cotton State.      Then in 1910, an event occurred that shaped the landscape of Alabama and changed the lives of many.  Mr. Boll Weevil made an appearance….all the way from Mexico.    The  1910 to 1915 Alabama cotton crops were destroyed by the pesky boll weevil.  Families and towns were devastated.

As if a prayer had been answered, Dr. George Washington Carver published in 1916 “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption.”    Not only did the publication teach farmers different ways of using the crop as food both for humans and livestock,  it explained the benefit of crop rotation and how the peanut replenished the soil.    Dr. Carver and his wisdom concerning peanuts, saved the economy of the South.

Peanuts are still plentiful throughout the South.  As soon as the season is right for me to get my hands on some green peanuts, I’ll teach you how to boil them properly.  For now, we can still find dry peanuts at roadside produce stands.   Dry peanuts are good for eating raw and parching.    “Parching?”, you ask in a quizzical and somewhat skeptical tone.  Yep.  Parching.  We parch peanuts.   You may know them by another name: roasted.

Roasting became a verb in my world only in fairly recent history.  Growing up, roast was a noun.  We ate roasts but we didn’t roast things in the oven.  We baked, broiled or just plain ol’ cooked them.  We didn’t even roast roasts.  Some vintage Southern cook books give instructions on roasting.   However, for some unknown reason,  my family never got the memo that roast is a verb and not just a noun.   Cooking peanuts in the oven was called parching .

Parched peanuts in the shell were a favorite throughout the South.  People could conveniently carry them in their pockets for snacks throughout the day.  School children carried them in their lunches.   They were an absolute necessity to get through  watching a good SEC football game.

Don’t expect parched peanuts to taste the same as commercially roasted peanuts.    The difference is about as stark as fresh salmon versus canned salmon.  While commercially roasted peanuts have a richer flavor than raw, parching them takes them to a whole new dimension of deep  peanut taste.

Raw peanuts on the left, parched peanuts on the right. The color of the meat turns a caramel color when parched. The skins become brittle and separates easily from the meat.

Parched Peanuts  

There’s no science to parching peanuts.  Too many variables affect the cooking time.  Different ovens will produce different cooking times.  The moisture content of the peanuts is a big variable.  Of course, individual taste preferences must be taken into account, also.   The cooking time can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 50 minutes in a 350 degree oven.   I wouldn’t recommend cooking the peanuts on a higher temperature because once they start heating up good, they can cook very fast and scorch easily.  There’s not many kitchen disasters worse than a scorched peanut.  Not only does the smell seem to last for days, you can’t hardly get the taste out of your mouth.  Sometimes we just can’t listen to our nose when it’s trying to tell us the peanuts are scorched.   We have to taste them in spite of ourselves.

Place unshelled dried peanuts  in a single layer on a shallow baking pan in a  350 degree oven.    Test the peanuts periodically for doneness which means you shell one and eat the meat.  That’s the only way to test it.  The amount of cooking time may vary batch to batch.  There’s just no way to get around testing the peanuts.   After you shell the tester peanut, if the meat isn’t hot enough to burn your little fingers, it’s not done.  You’ll need to keep testing until one tastes right to you.  This batch took me 50 minutes.   It usually doesn’t take that long which means these peanuts had a good bit of moisture in them.

Parched peanuts

 

They will continue to cook a little from residual heat after you’ve taken them out of the oven.   They need to cool before you get really serious about eating a bunch of them.  Those  little suckers hold heat and will burn the stew out of your mouth.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue, a Florida Farm Girl permalink
    January 16, 2012 9:41 pm

    Yep, parched peanuts. We were never brave enough to parch them at 350. I think we always used about 300. But different strokes……

    Have you made peanut butter from parched peanuts?

    Oh, have you seen the boll weevil monument in Enterprise?

    • January 16, 2012 9:47 pm

      Sue,

      I found several recipes for parched peanuts that had them cooking between 400 and 500 degrees. I couldn’t believe that! How on earth can you keep the shells from burning to a crisp at that temp? I’ve never tried making peanut butter at all. Do you have a recipe or a method?

      I have seen the boll weevil monument at Enterprise and know it well. I started to include it in this post but thought better of it. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the monument and I just didn’t want to open a can of worms.

  2. Jean permalink
    January 17, 2012 5:47 am

    I love parched peanuts and boiled peanuts! I have not been able to get my hands on green enough peanuts around here to boil them. Its a very acquired taste but once you like them you are hooked for life. I seldom roast the peanuts any higher than the 350 mark. Pecans will burn quickly but of course the peanuts are in their shells.

    • January 18, 2012 8:35 am

      Jean,

      It’s hard to find good green peanuts. I’m in search of a grower myself. I want to pick them, clean them and boil them right away. I can just about make myself sick with good boiled peanuts! :)

      • Jean permalink
        January 18, 2012 5:41 pm

        Folks I know close to Auburn have a family who grows those huge peanuts. They must make a major peanut cooking day and package them in bags and freeze them.
        I do know those were the best I have ever had. Will ask where the parents live in Florida. Don’t want you going without peanuts! Guess we could plant a few rows in the garden!

        • January 20, 2012 12:29 pm

          Jean,

          I am officially in peanut farmer hunting mode. I know it’s not peanut season now, but who knows how long it’ll take for me to track one down?

          I’ve never planted peanuts in my garden because I don’t have long rows. I garden in 4×4 raised beds and peanuts need lots of room. I’ll find me some peanuts if it means driving a little ways. :)

  3. Ann permalink
    January 17, 2012 8:17 am

    Jackie – just had some last night!!! LOL – My daddy lives near Jay, FL which is the peanut capitol of the world I think, and he always gets a huge bag and gives me a bunch. We love them – my husband doesn’t like the boiled ones, but I do – and when I was little my daddy always planted about two rows of peanuts and then he would pull them all up and we would have to pick them off the vines – what a dirty job (but someone had to do it and what better choice than kids who love to get dirty!!) Then my Mama would boil a huge pot of them – there’s nothing better – except maybe parched!! – Can’t decide!

    • January 18, 2012 8:32 am

      Ann,

      Nothing beats fresh peanuts, for sure. I wish I could find a grower near me so I could pick them, clean them and boil them. The fresher the peanut, they better they are boiled. Do you know of any growers in our part of FL? :)

  4. Laura Stark permalink
    January 17, 2012 11:13 am

    Oh, lordy!! Ain’t heard that expression in years!! Where I grew up (mid-west Georgia, on the banks of the Chattahoochee) parched and boiled peanuts were a staple in my family. We’d get a call from a friend of my grandpa and off we’d go to the peanut farm to harvest some good eatin’. The majority of the peanuts would be boiled (Pa Pa’s fave) and the rest would be parched. Some would then go into brittle, but the larger amount would be eaten out of hand. Even raw peanuts taste good when they’re fresh from the ground!! Thanks for the remembery!!!

    • January 18, 2012 8:31 am

      Laura,

      You literally made me laugh out loud: “Thanks for the remembery!!!” I love that!!!

      Thank you so much for sharing your “remembery”. I hope you have a wonderful day! :)

  5. January 17, 2012 12:54 pm

    Hi Jackie, Sorry I’ve been a stranger to your site as of lately. You know how it goes.. life sometimes get too crazy and you can’t figure out if your coming or going!
    I had a great time in Mobile over the Christmas holiday,I walked the beaches of Dauphin Island everyday I could while I was home. Thankfully the weather was fairly nice for us.

    I’ve never parched peanuts in the shell, we parch them out of the shell. Peanuts are huge here in Eastern NC ,like they are in Al. Last year we even took a stab at growing them…they’re alot of work! Work that I don’t want to do again!! I can’t wait until you share how to boil the peanuts,I love me some boiled peanuts!!

    I hope you have a wonderful day
    Ginger :)

    • January 18, 2012 8:29 am

      Ginger,

      It’s so good to hear from you! I hope all is well in your world. You’re Christmas vacation sounds wonderful! I’m glad to hear you were able to go home. :)

  6. January 17, 2012 2:43 pm

    Wow Jackie!!! Brings back some wonderful memories… I dealy love parched peanuts but haven’t had any is a long time. WAY too long. Thanks! :)

    • January 18, 2012 8:27 am

      Michele,

      So glad you had some wonderful memories sparked! I hope you have a wonderful day! :)

  7. January 17, 2012 6:15 pm

    I love the roast is a noun. I moved to the South from Maine to go to college and lived there for a long time before moving to Australia. I never knew that over half the annual peanut crop goes into peanut butter. Yum.

    I’ve never parched a peanut. Sad, isn’t it?

    • January 18, 2012 8:27 am

      Hi Maureen! I’m thrilled to hear from you again. I hope all has been well in your world.

      I did know that a vast majority of the peanut crop goes for peanut butter. I crave that stuff!

      Have you ever had boiled peanuts? Now, they are spectacular if done right! :)

  8. Karen permalink
    January 19, 2012 10:41 am

    Love parched peanuts! When I worked at a mortgage company in downtown Birmingham in the 1970s and 1980s, on Morris Avenue near 1st Ave N there was a Peanut Depot where they parched peanuts all day – my coworkers and I would walk over on our break and get a $1 worth in a brown paper bag – still warm & so very good! I need to check and see if the Peanut Depot is still on Morris Avenue, if it is, I need to stop in and grab a bag to go!

    • January 20, 2012 12:20 pm

      Karen,

      Thanks for stopping by! Good luck with your hunt for parched peanuts. I hope you’re successful! :)

  9. Rhonda permalink
    December 11, 2013 11:53 am

    During the two years I lived in LA (Lower Alabama, also known as the Florida Panhandle), I developed a love for the local foods…boiled peanuts being just one of many favorites. We used to have big kettles of them around Halloween. Never had fresh parched peanuts, though. Sounds yummy & easy enough. All your recipes are keepers. Thanks for sharing!

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