“To me, peanut butter is the breakfast of champions!”-Greg Louganis, Olympic Diver
Peanuts are about to take their place in South Carolina’s culinary hall of fame along with shrimp & grits and sweet tea. The State Senate recently passed a bill stating that “the General Assembly finds boiled peanuts are a delicious and popular snack food that are found both in stores and roadside stands across the State.” The bill describes the snack as “peanuts boiled in the shell at least one hour.” It will become official when it is signed by the Governor.
Boiled peanuts have been popular in South Carolina at least since the Civil War era. (Soldiers dined on ‘peanut porridge.’ ) When boiled in salted water, peanut shells become soggy and the peanuts taste a bit like fresh-cooked legumes. Most people boil them for several hours.
Whatever their political affiliation, folks in South Carolina seems to enjoy peanuts – one of life’s little pleasures. In 2005, planted acreage of all types of peanuts in South Carolina was 62 thousand acres, up from 35 thousand acres in 2004. South Carolinians eat boiled peanuts at the fair, on the back porch, in the car and at backyard barbecues. They taste best eaten warm but you can keep them in the refrigerator up to one week.
Boiled and roasted peanuts are a popular nibble to accompany drinks. Peanuts and RC cola, anyone But did you know that peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts in the USA. Peanut butter with jelly (or banana) sandwiches are a huge favorite with kids (and many adults). Women and children seem to prefer creamy, while most men like the chunky type.
There are many jokes and poems about peanut butter and sticky situations. It can definitely stick to the roof of your mouth and although I wouldn’t recommend this, one jokester playfully feeds a gob of it to his dog for cheap entertainment. According to the National Peanut Board, peanut butter was the secret behind “Mr. Ed,” TV’s talking horse. Did you know that ‘arachibutyrophobia’ is the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.
Peanut butter is more than kid stuff and deserves a great deal of nutritional respect. In 2002, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a Harvard School of Public Health study of nurses, reported that “consuming a half serving (one tablespoon) of peanut butter or a full serving of peanuts (or one ounce of other nuts), five or more times a week is associated with a 21 %and 27 %reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, respectively. ” (Type two diabetes has tripled in the last 30 years.) Higher consumption seems to provide a greater protective effect.
The study suggests that nuts should become a regular part of the diet. Peanuts contain mainly unsaturated fat and are low in saturated fat. Peanut butter can be eaten as a replacement for refined grain products and red meats. Most brands have undetectable levels of trans fats even through partially hydrogenated oils are listed as a minor ingredient. Peanuts are naturally cholesterol-free. They are rich in vitamin E, potassium, zinc, antioxidants and phytosterols, important to good health. Peanuts are a good source of folate, which can reduce the risk of certain birth defects in the brain and spinal cord.
The peanut is actually a legume related to beans and lentils. It grows on vines rather than on a tree. The edible ‘seeds’ are found inside the thin long pods. There are four types of peanuts are grown in the USA. – Runner, Virginia, Spanish and Valencia.
Peanuts originated in Brazil and Peru and are a staple South America, Africa, and Asia. The Portuguese carried the peanut to Africa where it was planted as a high yield, low cost crop. Peanuts are called ‘groundnuts’ in Africa.
Africans brought peanuts to America. ‘Goober’ is the nickname for peanuts in the southeastern United States. It comes from the Kikongo work ‘nguba,’ which applies to all root foods. African cooks have ground peanuts into stews for centuries. They introduced peanut soup to Colonial Americans. It is a favorite southern dish and one of George Washington’s favorites, as reported by his daughter-in-law. It is still served at Mt. Vernon and in Colonial Williamsburg. Some of the first vines in this country were found on Monticello, the Virginia farm of gastronome Thomas Jefferson.
Ground peanut paste was first marketed by George A. Bayle Jr. around 1890 on the advise of a St. Louis physician. It was used as a protein substitute for people with bad teeth who couldn’t chew meat. Bayle mechanized the process and began selling peanut butter for 6 cents a pound. Peanut butter was introduced to the world in 1904 at the Universal Exposition of St. Louis. In 1908, Krema Products Company in Columbus, Ohio became the first American company to market peanut butter. They would only sell within the state since peanut butter was packed in barrels and there was no interstate system to move it quickly. Several brands were soon being marketed in California and churned like butter for a smoother texture. A special process was created to keep the oil from separating from the nut paste. Swift & Company was one of the first to adopt this process. The company was renamed Peter Pan in 1928. Skippy and Jiff brands soon followed. Peanut Butter was on its way to becoming an American favorite!
In 1903, Dr. George Washington Carver began his peanut research at Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama. The agricultural researcher developed more than 300 uses for peanuts. He envisioned the peanut as a replacement for Southern cotton crops ravaged by the boll weevil in the 1890’s. Dr. Carver once served a special lunch to a group of Alabama businessmen-that consisted entirely of peanuts. The courses ranged from peanut soup to roasted peanut coffee. George Washington Carver so improved peanut horticulture that he is considered by many to be the father of the peanut industry.
Peanuts continue to reach new heights in professional kitchens. Chefs and food writers are using peanuts and peanut butter to update the American classics in a variety of recipes for soups, breads, ice cream, main dishes, barbecue sauce, soups and salad dressings. A few years ago, even the famous Four Seasons Hotel put a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Souffle on the menu.
TYPES OF PEANUT BUTTER
The U.S.D.A. says all peanut butters must contain at least 90 percent peanuts. Most national brands contain about 94 percent along with a small amount of sweetener and salt for flavor and and a stabilizer such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. No artificial flavor, color, or sweeteners are allowed.
Natural or old-fashioned peanut butter, without stabilizers, has a layer of peanut oil on the top. The oil separation is natural; just stir it back into the peanut butter and store in the refrigerator. Refrigerate after opening.
These days, I particularily like the fresh roasted flavor of Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. But for the most authentic evaluation of peanut butter products, it’s best to ask the experts – a test panel of kids. They probably won’t vote for less-sweet taste of natural peanut butter, although grown ups seem to really enjoy it. It’s all in what you are use to eating
Boiled peanuts can be purchased many places around town including at the Farmer’s Market and Cromers (803-771-8807) – voted the source of the best boiled peanuts by Columbia Metropolitan Magazine.
Look for peanut recipes in other posts.
Read Allison Askins’ food article in the State Newspaper, April 26th, 2006.
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