Chinese Boiled Peanuts- The Gateway to Becoming a True Southener

I was born just outside of Philadelphia, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. I spent a wonderful 12 years playing in the creek in the backyard, going to the pool every summer day and growing into a young girl fond of the King of Prussia Mall before moving south to Virginia Beach. More fun filled years followed in the southern beach town thru high school before I moved and got swept away and truly “southernized” by the charm of Charleston, South Carolina. I fell in love with the South, the tradition and grace, from the willowing giant oaks filled with Spanish moss to the hospitality of strangers on the uneven cobblestone streets. There were only a few southern ways that I could not adapt- one being those giant mushy goober peas, a southern delicacy – Boiled Peanuts.

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I just could not get passed the soft, gross texture, or that a perfectly good peanut was wasted- how can you possibly beat the innate peanut flavor? However, my husband, who came from even deeper south, Fairhope, Alabama, loves the little boogers and convinced me to make some. I bought a one pound bag and made two different flavors- Cajun and Chinese. The raw green peanuts are harvested late summer but you can still get raw dried peanuts thru the year in most groceries. I immediately had a change of heart when I tasted one of the Chinese boiled boogers.

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Ingredients
1/2 pound raw unshelled peanuts
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 stick cinnamon, about 3 inches in length
1 star anise
1 clove
1 dried chili, optional

Directions
Place the peanuts into a large pot and fill with water, stirring to remove the excess dirt. Drain into a colander, rinse and repeat 3 times. In a heavy bottom pot add the peanuts and pour just enough water to cover. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar, salt, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and dried chili.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and then lower temperature to a slow moving boil. Cook for 4-5 hours, checking occasionally that liquid is still covering the peanuts. Add water as needed and cook until desired tenderness. Another method is to use a slow cooker on low for 12 hours.

Serve the peanuts warm; reserving the liquid to store the peanuts in, if you have any leftover. Reheat on a stove with the braising liquid to serve later.

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Like any good southerner, I can accept fault with grace- I was wrong about the celebrated boiled peanut. I fell in love with these suckers. The Chinese flavor profile enhanced the traditional peanut flavor that I could not part with, absolutely addictive.

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With a pile in front of us, Sir Wes and I did not stop eating them until they were gone; barely even a face wipe or a sip of beer. I knew at this point of indulgence that although I have a birth certificate from Pennsylvania, I was truly a Southern girl.

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Farm Berry Southern Cobbler- #AlabamaBakingProblems

We took a trip last week to Alabama to visit Sir Wes’s family.  Very often when one goes home to the place they grew up, to a mom that cooked every Sunday thru Saturday for them thru their childhood, one would expect to get some of that home cooking.  In fact, we did get a belly full of a southern mother prepared feast, but did miss one key, controversial dessert- The Farm Berry Southern Cobbler.

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Thru our years of marriage, Sir Wes has talked and talked about the cobblers that were made every weekend by his Mom or one of her 4 sisters.  He stated,  “there is not a better dessert then the Farm Berry Southern Cobbler that my Mom and my Aunts made”.   And after these years of marriage, on our many trips to his mother’s home, I would have hoped to try it.  Turns out, it isn’t that simple.

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We go to the his Aunt Alice’s, the family farm as I call it, and pick the blueberries from the trees.  I am always sure to pick enough to bring back to Florida with us to put in the freezer.   Then either his mom or Sir Wes would get to making this family heirloom recipe.  And then we would sit and wonder what went wrong.  I think they are cursed.

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This last visit, I sat his mom down and asked her to tell me the recipe; she even consulted with her sister to double check.   I knew that Wes’s failure could be attributed to the fact that he ignores directions and amounts when following recipes and does what he wants, but his mom is such a fabulous cook so I wasn’t sure where her mishaps came from.

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Here are my notes:

Ingredients

  • ½ cup or 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup self-rising flour, make sure to use self rising- this might have been where Wes went wrong
  • 1 cup sugar, add a little more if you’re not going to serve any whip or ice cream with it.  Maybe a ¼ cup.
  • 1 cup milk, you can use any type, of course whole milk will taste the best with the higher fat content, but skim will work too.
  • 3 cups berries, preferably from Aunt Alice’s Farm

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350.  Melt the stick of butter in the baking dish over the stove, I used about a 10”cast iron skillet as any proper southerner would.  While the butter melts combine the flour, sugar and milk in a mixing bowl and whip until smooth.  Once the butter is melted pour the batter into the baking dish and gently whisk until the butter is mixed to the batter.  Spread the berries into the dish, over the batter.   Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

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Serves 8-10 friends.  Add a scoop of whip cream or vanilla ice cream, (Blue Bell of course is the best choice) to top it off.  You can substitute your favorite fruit, or whatever is in season also- peaches, pears, apples.

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As it turns out cobbler is controversial thru America, not just in Sir Wes’s family.  It’s one of those desserts that is so forgiving (minus our previously stated cobbler debacles), there came to be a ton of recipes and versions all with different names.

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The Huffington Post published an article last year that cleared it all up for us- they wrote, “There seems to be some confusion over our baked goods, everyone. Tell the truth: if we asked you to tell us the difference between a crumble, cobbler, crisp, grunt, slump, buckle or brown Betty (without Googling it), could you tell us? Until we started working on this article, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to swing it.”

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Honestly, I have never heard of a “grunt” or a “slump” before reading this.  And I feel like they missed the kind that I see the most- a batter based cobbler.

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After trying the recipe I jotted down from his mom, I still am left wondering what went wrong.  The recipe was perfectly told, easy to follow and simple to make.    However, I am happy to say in true southern form, that Farm Berry Cobbler was blessedly dee-licous!

Pimento Cheese- “Southern Pate”

Pimento cheese in the south is a staple.  Every southern cook has “the best” recipe, kind of like chili, meatloaf, and BBQ sauce! 

Pimento Cheese, Pate of The South!

Southern Living recently ran a compilation of Pimento Cheese recipes from acclaimed Southern Chefs- I adapted Louis Osteen’s recipe.  I somehow feel I have an attachment to him as I had a college roommate that worked at one of his restaurants, and I walked by the namesake restaurant daily.  As a college student, I only had the opportunity to walk by Louis’s, never dine!

Pimento Cheese is a Southern Treasure!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese ( 1/2 lb.)
  • 2-oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon grated yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 oz whole peeled pimento, drained and rinsed

    One bite is not enough!

     

Preparation

In a food processor combine all ingredients and pulse until desired texture.  You can also use a electric mixer to blend. 

Serve with fresh breads or crackers

Yield is about 1 ½ cups

A Southern Delicacy!

 
Best with fresh baked breads or artisan crackers
 
Happy Eats Y’all!