Stirring up memories
That Time of Year
October 12, 2005
Autumn is upon us. We may not have the glow of crimson and
golden maple leaves, or their crunch beneath our feet, but here in Southwest Georgia, we still know it’s fall. We have our own signs of the season.
a cool edge to the air when I take my early morning walk; sometimes from overhead I hear the honking of geese
heading south. (Did you know that a flock of flying geese is known as a skein?) My feet may not be crunching colorful
leaves, but they are skidding on slippery pine straw and stomping on fallen
signs of the season. But
there’s another ‘round here—the big one. Peanuts. The air fills with the rich, earthy
nutty scent. The fields along the
road send up clouds of dust, and the road itself is filled with peanut trailers
heading toward town.
peanut, like the potato and corn, is a gift of the New
World. They started
out in South America but now we call them our
own. And we really call them our
own in this neck of the woods.
every other state by a long shot!
Nearly half of the nation’s peanut crop comes from the Peach State! The Georgia Peanut commission estimates
there are over 14,000 farms growing peanuts. Farmers grow peanuts in 80 of the
state’s 159 counties. And
you’ll probably not be surprised (particularly if you’ve recently
been behind a peanut truck) to find that Decatur County
ranks fourth in those 80 counties.
Only Early, Mitchell and Worth
Counties had more acreage
given over to peanuts in 2004.
chatted with Mitchell May and Joel Hudgins at the Extension Service and learned
some more about our local peanuts. Mostly what I wanted to know was how to
create that local delicacy—boiled peanuts.
ago, when we moved here the first person to tell me about them was Mavis
Phillips of Colquitt. Her approach
was simple: lots of water, lots of
salt, lots of time.
asked Mitchell if he could be more specific. He allowed that it is a leisurely
process. He suggests about an hour
and a half over a low fire. How
much salt and how long? It’s
a matter of guess work that involves lots of sampling. Mitchell leaves the peanuts to soak after
turning off the fire. The longer you
leave them, the saltier they get.
is more high-tech. He uses a
pressure cooker for about one hour at ten pounds of pressure. He’s not too precise about the
salt—“just dump it in!”
conversations I learned more about this crop. Most Decatur County
peanuts are food grade and will be turned into peanut butter, salted nuts or
stirred into candy bars. Which leads to some interesting observations about
that favorite comfort food—peanut butter.
historians claim that the ancient Incas incorporated a peanut butter-like food
in their diet. But more recent
histories tell us that it was invented or reinvented by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg
(of the cereal Kelloggs) around 1895.
It became a national rage at the St.
Louis World’s Fair of 1904.
remains a favorite today. Americans eat more than 700 million pounds of the
tasty paste every year—and spend more than 800 million dollars on
it. The National Peanut
Board estimates that the average child will eat 1,500 peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches before entering high school.
course there is more to do with peanut butter than slap it on bread with grape
jelly. It can add an interesting
flavor to both main dishes and dessert.
I cooked up this soup sort
of “playing it by ear.”
Surprising Tomato Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 can tomato soup
1 soup can of milk
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or
more to taste)
2 teaspoons curry powder (or more
brown the onion and celery in cooking oil.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to an almost-boil. It’s good served on rice, and
better if you add some chopped cooked chicken.
peanut butter often makes the scene at dessert. Peanut butter cookies are an old-timey
favorite, but this is the star around our house.
Double Peanut Bars
2 cups butter (don’t
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
5 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 (6 ounce) packages semisweet
1/2 cup peanut butter, either
crunchy or smooth
1 cup dry-roast peanuts, lightly
together the butter and sugars. Add
the oats. Press into a 13 x 9
baking dishes. Bake at 350 degrees
for about 15 minutes or until the mixture feels firm. While the oat mixture is baking, melt
together the chocolate chips and peanut butter—either over boiling water
or in the microwave. Spread the
melted chocolate over the oats and top with the chopped nuts. When cool, cut
makes a very thick cookie. For
thinner bars, halve the recipe and use the same size pan.
you are in a hurry or don’t want to light the oven, just melt the
chocolate and peanut butter together and top with the nuts. It makes dandy fudge.
there’s nothing quite like a pnj—peanut butter and jelly
sandwich. But there are interesting
variations on the standard. Some peanut butter sandwiches don’t even call
for jelly. I grew up lathering mine
with mayonnaise and sweet pickles.
To my family’s amazement and almost disgust, sometimes I still do.
fact, the peanut butter people at Jif
are sponsoring a contest for young chefs between 6 and 12 years old. They are seeking the most creative peanut
butter sandwich—with or without jelly. The contest is being carried on via the
Internet. The contest final date is
November 15. Then the judges will
post the finalists on the Jif
website for a nationwide online vote.
Five finalists will have a smear-off in New York City in March.
you and/or your kids have a favorite recipe, check out the rules at www.jif.com. Should you decide to enter, send me a
copy of the recipe so I can give it a try as well.
me know as well if you have a special boiled peanut secret.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network