|Boiled peanuts on left, unboiled on right|
photo by Katori
C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and also editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 13 years. Her newsletters reach 45,000 readers. Learn more about Hope and her books at her website.
Peanuts and Palmetto Poison
Boiled peanuts are the official state snack of South Carolina. Like a good Scotch, outsiders call them an acquired taste, but Southerners are addicted. Travelers often find them at roadside stands, ballgames and county fairs. They can be messy, and some don’t shell out easily, but peanut connoisseurs swear the delicacies inside each hull are worth every effort. Eat them outside, with a good beer or sweet tea. They somehow seem to taste better that way, plus you can throw the shells on the ground.
Word has it that during the Civil War (the War of Northern Aggression to a die-hard South Carolinian,) a lack of supplies resulted from Union General William T. Sherman’s successful split of Confederate territory. Soldiers had no bread or meat, but they could sure boil up a big pot of peanuts, giving them much needed nutrition. The combination of the salt and the boiling process allowed soldiers to keep the peanuts for as long as a week.
Palmetto Poison, the third in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, takes the feisty and inquisitive Slade into politics, confronting a shady governor with peanut farming in his blood going way back, lots of skeletons he’d prefer remain in the closet, and family deaths that don’t make sense. The setting is Pelion, South Carolina, peanut capital of the state, as represented by their annual Pelion Peanut Party, celebrating all things goober!
While boiled peanuts are not pretty or exotic or found on many four- and five-star restaurants, there is absolutely nothing that can substitute that flavor. The peanuts can come from anywhere, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Texas, but they all cook up the same way. And yes, you’re allowed to slurp as you eat them!
South Carolina Boiled Peanuts
30 minutes prep time. 4 hours cook time (depending on variety of peanuts used)
4-5 pounds of peanuts (must be green, also known as raw, not previously cooked in any fashion – best found in late summer months)
4-6 quarts of water
1 cup plain salt per gallon of water
Optional seasonings, such as crab boil, cayenne, Cajun, chili pepper, pepper flakes, garlic, onion, Chinese 5-spice, jalapeno.
Wash unshelled peanuts in cold water. Soak in large heavy pot of new water for thirty minutes. Add more water, bringing the level to two inches over the peanuts. Add the salt. Add the optional spice or your choice (or none.)
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue to simmer for approximately four hours, checking occasionally to maintain the water level. The larger the peanuts or thicker the shell, the longer you have to cook. Up to six hours.
At four hours, taste a peanut for texture and salty flavor. Fully cooked results in a peanut the consistency of a cooked dried bean. Remove from heat and drain to avoid becoming overly salty. Eat hot, room temperature or chilled. They keep up to one week.
(NOTE: You can freeze cooked peanuts. They keep forever!)
Are peanuts capable of murder? Carolina Slade will bust this shell game. Big money, big politics, crime, greed, and big farming—Slade, an agriculture department investigator in the steamy state of South Carolina, once again finds herself planted in a dangerous mystery.
Her assignment? Find out if there’s a sinister connection between the drug-dealing arrest of wealthy peanut farmer Lamar Sheeler and the gruesome death of Lamar’s teenage son in a car wreck. Especially since the dead teen is Governor Dick Wheeler’s nephew.
Of course, the governor’s people practically sky-write STAY AWAY FROM THE FIRST FAMILY over the Palmetto state’s capitol dome in Columbia, which doesn’t make Slade’s job easier. Couldn’t she simply back off from what appears to be a tragic and ugly—but private—family matter?
Not with hot-tempered DEA agent Pamela Largo on the case. Ex-wife to Senior Special Agent Wayne Largo, Slade's romantic interest, Pamela's hell-bent on using Lamar Wheeler's situation to re-open a cold case involving an Atlanta drug lord and Wayne's long lost sister Kay.
Soon Slade’s shoveling shooflies uphill against Pamela’s obsessions, the drug lord’s vendettas, the Governor’s secrets, and the bizarre realization that those secrets involve peanuts with the ability to kill.