Sunday, April 10, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Georgia I - Boilin' Goober Peas

We head a little farther north, to the capital of the New South and its sister cities throughout the Peach State. I have lots of family in Georgia, and I'll have more once my sister moves there later this year. Maybe this post will help her acclimate a little better.

Official Name: State of Georgia
State Nicknames: The Peach State, Empire State of the South
Admission to the US: January 2, 1788 (#4)
Capital: Atlanta (largest city)
Other Important Cities: Augusta (2nd largest), Savannah (4th largest), Columbus (3rd largest)
Region: South, Deep South, Lowcountry (specifically along the coast); South Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Cornbread & BBQ, Crabcake, Gumbo
Bordered by: Alabama (west), Tennessee & North Carolina (north), South Carolina (northeast), Atlantic Ocean (east), Florida (south)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: grits (official state prepared food), peach (fruit), Vidalia onion (vegetable)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: again, grits, peaches and Vidalia onions, among many other things, among them: Coca-Cola, boiled peanuts, pecans, pralines, okra, and other typical foods of the Deep South

As its capital, Atlanta, is also "capital of the New South", Georgia is not just the nexus of all edible things Southern but home to great food diversity - again, Atlanta is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the country. But Georgia also has a few foods that are its own, at least at first. Though I've already discovered that Delaware was a center of peach production on the East Coast at one time, most of us think of Georgia when we think of peaches. Georgia also comes to mind (can you hear me, Georgia?) when sweet, sweet Vidalia onions or the world's most popular soft drink pops up. I will touch a little bit on all of this in the paragraphs that follow.

Driving from Maryland to Georgia a few years ago on a visit to my brother-in-law in Hinesville, I had to stop a few times to abate the hunger. Once I passed into South Carolina I started seeing constantly heated containers of boiled peanuts in every convenience store. No I did not see them in North Carolina, though my cousin's wife, born and raised in the Tar Heel State, fondly remembers them. They are also a staple snack all over Georgia, so states one "postcard cookbook" I picked up in Savannah a few years ago:

Peanuts are Georgia's most valuable crop. Every Southerner knows that "goobers" or "goober peas" is another name for peanuts. This much-loved legume was immortalized in a Confederate ballad, that says, in part, "...But another pleasure enchantinger [sic] than these / Is wearing out your grinders, eating goober peas" ... "I wish this war was over, when free from rags and fleas / We'd kiss our wives and sweethearts and gobble goober peas!" [Hanley and Moffatt 2000; note: I sang that song on stage in fifth grade]
No less than the Lady herself Paula Deen gets all giddy over her goober peas in the "Boat Day" episode of her show. I've made them before, and I'll make them again, this time the Lady & Sons way.

The recipe: Boiled Peanuts

For boiled peanuts, all you need are:

* peanuts (these must be raw, not roasted, which is not that easy to find in Baltimore - I figured the North Carolina-based supermarket chain Harris Teeter would obviously have raw peanuts, but no - not at their Columbia location, and not at their Arlington location. Fortunately, I remembered that Giant does indeed sell bagged raw peanuts from Jimbo's Jumbos. This is the best we're going to do here unless we grow our own - which I am planning to do this summer. A bag of jumbo raw peanuts cost $4.)
* salt (a lot of it - kosher preferably)
* You don't need any other seasonings, and Miss Paula doesn't use them. But I decided to Ches-ify mine by adding a generous helping of Old Bay (about 2 or 3 tablespoons). Fortunately, Old Bay is well-loved throughout the South, so this may not sound as strange as you might think.

Boiled peanuts are particularly easy to make: take a pound of raw peanuts and about a 1/2 to 3/4 cup salt per pound, boil for a few hours and there you go. But I decided to save myself the need of having to constantly watch over it by throwing them in the slow cooker (okay I lied - I did not do this the Lady& Sons way).

When I threw them in the slow cooker, I should have put them on high for 5 to 7 hours, as this eHow article suggests. I started on low for 4 hours, and then bothered to look up the article (wah waaaaaaah). But what turned into a day of boiling peanuts paid off, as I finally got soft, hot boiled peanuts!

I have to differ with Paula Deen on the salt amount. I know they're supposed to be salty, but these had so much of it! I am not alone on this, as even proper Southerners have told Miss Paula as much in comments to her recipe. My favorite comment comes from "bradfordrb" from Columbia [I assume South Carolina]:
Lord have mercy, Paula! I do declare, there is too much salt in that there recipe of boiled peanuts. You trying to send us all to meet our maker and give us a blazin' heart attack? [comment on Deen 2010]
In addition, my attempt to Old Bay-ify these peanuts didn't bear any fruit, er, legumes, as the Old Bay taste completely got washed away by the salt. In the future, I will turn up the Old Bay and turn down the salt. But the peanuts were still good, and I ate some on the way to Rehoboth Beach recently.


Candler Graham, Elizabeth, and Ralph Roberts. Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola. Hambleton Hill Publishing: Nashville, 1998

Coca-Cola Company. "Recipe: Fruited Pork Chops". Copyright The Coca-Cola Company, 2006.

Coca-Cola Company. "Recipe: Southern Caramelized Vidalias". Copyright The Coca-Cola Company, 2006. Originally submitted by Rod Rives of Birmingham, AL.

Deen, Paula. "Boiled Peanuts". Featured on the Paula's Home Cooking episode "Boat Day". Copyright The Food Network, 2010

Fairweather, John. "How to Make Boiled Peanuts in a Slow Cooker". From eHow Food, date unknown.

Georgia Peach Council. "Rich History of GA Peach". Copyright Georgia Peach Council, date unknown.

Hanley, Lucy (editor), and Alice Moffatt (food editor). The Best Basic & Easy Recipes of Savannah. John Hinde Curteich: Savannah, 2000. Distributed by Dixie Postcards & Souvenir Sales.

Yearwood, Trisha, with Gwen Yearwood and Beth Yearwood Bernard. Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen: Recipes from My Family to Yours. Clarkson Potter: New York, 2008.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Georgia" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Georgia".