The South wouldn’t be the South without boiled peanuts. But a really good boiled peanut can be elusive. Mike Plummer hit the road to find local boiled peanut experts.
First he met up with Marvin McKenzie, owner of Glenda’s Country Store on Highway 319, south of Tallahassee. Marvin says he’s been boiling peanuts since grade school. Lesson number one from Marvin: know your peanut!
Marvin says green peanuts are fresh peanuts that were grown this year. To get a dry peanut they’ll take that peanut and dehydrate it or dry it out and make a dry peanut out of it. This year\’s peanut is a green, fresh peanut.
A green peanut is a fresh peanut. A dry peanut is dehydrated. And if you’re wondering about a roasted peanut, you must not be from around here. Marvin prefers the green peanut.
Marvin continues, “Your Valencia is going to be the same size. It’ll be three and four nuts to the shell. Your bigger jumbos are a white skin and they’ll have two peanuts or two nuts to the shell and they’ll be, they’ll be big as your thumb. Your green ones like I got right here, I got half a bushel in there. I put one box of salt and that’s all that’s in it. All you gotta do is put the water to it, put the fire under it, don’t bring it up too high and boil them too hard. And then it cooks itself out, takes its time. If you boil them too hard or too much heat, it takes the flavor from them.”
Next we meet Eddie Burris and John Robinson. You’ll find John at the boiled peanut mothership where Crawfordville Road meets Highway 98 in Medart. John deferred the talking points to Eddie, but he did let us take a peek at the boiling operation. We caught up with Eddie further down the road in Panacea, where he’s known as the waving peanut man.
“The secret to it is you gotta soak’em. A lot of people they just want to throw them in the pot and boil’em,” says Eddie. “Well, we do’em. We soak’em a little bit, givem about ten hours of soaking time. Drain them off. Put’em back in the pot, run them up to a hot boil and do your seasonings, and then just turn it down to a simmer. And that takes in the area of eight to ten hours…to do a good peanut, to do a good peanut. And I do believe that I’ve got a good peanut. I have people that stop by all the time.”
Regular Peanut Versus Cajun Peanut
Marvin McKenzie touts, “I don’t mess up a good peanut. You got more people that will eat a good peanut, straight peanut than you have that’ll eat a Cajun peanut or something else.” While Eddie Burris disagrees, “Look at that juice! Look at that juice! Yeah! Now that’s what makes a good Cajun peanut.” Eddie claims he has never had a complaint about his Cajuns.
Now, if you’re less of a peanut boiler and more of a boiled peanut buyer, you can drop by and see Marvin at his store…or Eddie down in Panacea…or you can drive around looking for a roadside stand. You’ll usually have more success finding a roadside stand between Thursday and Sunday which are higher traffic days. And if you really have a sense of adventure, the grocery store sells boiled peanuts in the can!
Mike Plummer is a content producer and editor for television at WFSU Public Media. He spent 25 years in commercial television as an art director, commercial director, promotion manager, station manager and creative services director before coming to WFSU in 2008. Mike likes to find the “unusual” or “out of the ordinary” stories in our Local Routes. He says the best part of his job is getting to know people he would otherwise probably not get a chance to meet. Mike is widowed, has two terriers named Truman and Dexter, and is constantly at war with the vines growing in his backyard.