Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Virginia III - Now That's a Big Ol' Peanut

If Virginia isn't the land of ham, crabs or oysters, it is the land of peanuts.  I've had quite a few Virginia peanuts in my lifetime.  One favorite time was a stop at a little peanut store just above the North Carolina line - it may have been the Good Earth Peanut Company shop in Skippers, VA - to get some delicious candied peanuts.  I still need to drive down just to get some more.

Official Name: Commonwealth of Virginia
State Nickname: The Old Dominion State
Admission to the US: June 25, 1788 (#10)
Capital: Richmond (4th largest)
Other Important Cities: Virginia Beach (largest), Norfolk (2nd largest), Chesapeake (3rd largest); Newport News (5th largest), Hampton (6th largest), Alexandria (7th largest)
Region: South, Upper South, Mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake; South Atlantic (US Census)
RAFT NationsChestnutCrab Cake
Bordered by: West Virginia (northwest), Maryland, District of Columbia and the Potomac River (northeast), Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean (east), North Carolina (south), Tennessee (southwest), Kentucky (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: brook trout (fresh water fish), milk (beverage), Eastern oyster (shell), striped bass (salt water fish)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: ham (especially Smithfield); peanuts; Chesapeake Bay cuisine to the north and east of the state, specifically crabs (fried, steamed, boiled, deviled, Norfolk and she-crab soup) and oysters; typical Southern foods to the south and west of the state (including ham biscuits, beaten biscuits, etc); diverse multicultural foods in Northern Virginia (notably South & Southeast Asian, West African, Ethiopian and Central American); Brunswick stew

Here's something I didn't know: though Virginia peanuts are from Virginia, originally grown in Sussex County (first grown in the Andes, then brought to Africa and Europe, spreading out to Asia, and finally to North America), the "Virginia peanut" is just one of four major types or "groups" of peanuts produced in the United States.  Typically the largest type of peanut, it is popular for snacking, and is grown not just in Virginia and North Carolina but much of the coastal South and Southeast as well (Good Earth Peanut Company, date unknown).  This helps clear up one point of confusion for me: when shopping for Virginia peanuts for this recipe I was puzzled when I hit up Wegman's only to find a massive canister of "Virginia-style peanuts".  The most popular type of peanut in the United States, by the way, is the Runner, a high-yielding peanut that is smaller than the Virginia-style, grown mostly in the Deep South, Texas and Oklahoma (Good Earth Peanut Company, date unknown).

Well now I know what they mean by "Virginia-style".  They may not actually be from Virginia, but they are the type of peanut they grow in Virginia.

For this recipe, I did try to hunt down peanuts that were actually from Virginia.  In retrospect I'm not quite sure if I did succeed, but I did get a big canister of big roasted peanuts from Harris Teeter.  They are tasty.  Hopefully, in the spirit of the project, they actually came from Virginia.

There are many ways to prepare the incredible, edible peanut.  One popular way in the Deep South is to boil 'em.  But Virginia is not quite Deep South, and I've already done boiled peanuts for this series before.  Besides, there are many ways to prepare your peanuts.  Take Thai style, for example.  Northern Virginia, in particular, has a large Southeast Asian community, and one of the largest Thai-American communities in the nation.  Peanuts are an important part of Thai cuisine, as anyone who has eaten pad thai can attest.  I could have gone the pad thai route but felt like something a bit simpler.  So I was intrigued when I found this relatively easy Thai cucumber and peanut salad from the Peanut Shop of Williamsburg (2010).

The Recipe: Thai Peanut Cucumber Salad

For this Thai cuke salad you will need:

* cucumbers (they should be seedless, though I bought ones with seeds.  This was not really a problem)
* chile flakes (I ground up a few dried chiles)
* limes (you will need a few for the juice)
* cilantro (about $2 a bunch)
* basil (same)
* red onion (about 75 cents for this one)
* peanuts (as suggested above, I sought out Virginia peanuts - which I found at Harris Teeter for $9 a canister - instead of "Virginia-style" peanuts - the big kind that are called "Virginia" peanuts, which also cost $9 at Wegman's.  I'm still not 100% sure that the peanuts I did buy were actually grown in Virginia)
* salt and sugar (had them)
* soy sauce (this is not in the recipe, but I felt like adding it.  I used the Thai soy sauce I bought for my post on the Oregon food truck Thai soup)

Start by thinly slicing your cucumbers.

Chop up your basil and cilantro.

Juice your limes.  You should have the fresh stuff for this.

Slice the red onions while you're at it.

If you don't have chile pepper flakes, grind some dried chile peppers.

Now mix everything you've prepped so far all together, adding your lime juice.

Again, I decided to add some of that Thai soy sauce.

Now how about those peanuts?  You will need to crush them.  Put them in a ziploc bag...

...and smoosh them.  I used a small cast-iron skillet.

Put the cuke-onion mixture on a plate...

...and cover with the crushed Virginia peanuts.

While the prep is a little tedious, it still results in a relatively easy salad.  It's also a delicious, salty and crunchy salad.  Definitely I would make this again.


Anderson's Neck Oyster Company.  "History".  Copyright 2012, Anderson's Neck Oyster Company.  All rights reserved.

Brunswick Stewmaster's Association.  "Brunswick Stew History".  Copyright 2010, Brunswick Stewmaster's Association.  All rights reserved.

Carman, Tim.  "The Real Reason Why Squirrel Meat Isn’t Used in Brunswick Stew Anymore".  Young & Hungry column, Washington City Paper, posted May. 6, 2009.

Cowen, Tyler.  Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide.  Copyright 2012, All rights reserved.

Chadwell, Treva.  "Virginia Ham Biscuits".  Provided for the Cooking Channel.  Copyright 2012, Cooking Channel LLC.  All rights reserved.

"Elmer Fudd" (user), "Elmer Fudd's Brunswick Stew".  Posted September 26, 2009.  Copyright 2009 Field & Stream.  All rights reserved.

Good Earth Peanut Company.  "All About Peanuts".  Date unknown.

Graham, Paul, N.G. Marriott and R.F. Kelly.  "Dry Curing Virginia-Style Ham".  Written for the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, 2011.

Peanut Shop of Williamsburg.  "Thai Cucumber Salad".  Copyright 2010, The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg.  All rights reserved.

Randolph, Mary.  The Virginia Housewife: Or Methodical Cook: A Facsimile of an Authentic Early American Cookbook.  1824.  Republication of the edition by E.H. Butler & Co., Philadelphia, 1860.  Introduction by Janice Bluestein Longone, Moneola, NY: Dover, 1993.

Shields, John. Chesapeake Bay CookingBroadway Books: New York, NY, 1998

Virginia Tourism Corporation. "Home page".  Copyright 2012, Virginia Tourism Corporation.  All rights reserved.

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