A baseball treat, bar snack, nutritional workhorse—the peanut may seem like a fairly humble ingredient, but don’t be deceived. They’ve long dominated Southern agriculture and the economy.
Enslaved people first introduced peanuts to North America in the early 1700s, but they weren’t commercially produced until the 1800s. Virginia was the first state to grow them, and they were considered livestock feed, the poor man’s food, an inconvenience to grow and harvest. That changed during the Civil War, when both sides enjoyed them as a good source of protein.
Then the peanut's popularity took off nationwide. Vendors roasted and sold them at entertainment venues, like the circus and baseball games. For a time over the 1900s, peanuts rivaled cotton as the South’s leading commercial crop.
The peanut’s might may no longer be what it was, but it remains a Southern staple. Families covet generations-old peanut recipes. Boiled peanuts are a signature party snack. And, tins of artisan roasted peanuts appear under Christmas trees during the holidays.
You don't need a designated time to munch on a handful of goobers, but we like to make a point of doing so during National Peanut Month in March. Beyond straight snackin’, we’re using peanuts to dress up dinner and desserts. For inspiration, we called upon family-owned peanut companies Hubs Peanuts and Bertie County Peanuts.
Celebrate National Peanut Month in Style
Hubs Peanut-Encrusted Salmon
Upgrade the usual roasted salmon with a nutty marinade and crunchy topping. This recipe from Virginia-based Hubs Peanuts makes an elevated meal out of minimal ingredients.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine mustard and peanut butter and mix well. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine peanuts, panko, and rosemary. Mix well.
Coat each salmon fillet with peanut butter-mustard mixture, then pat on peanut-mixture. Sprinkle minced parsley on top and place salmon fillets on a lightly greased baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over fillets and bake until salmon is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
Southern Peanut Pie
Peanut pie is a signature Southern sweet. Its beauty is in its many contrasting elements: Salty peanuts are held together by a sweet syrup and it's simultaneously crunchy and chewy. This recipe comes from Bertie County Peanuts, a family-owned company in coastal North Carolina.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat eggs until foamy. Add sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and vanilla. Continue to beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in peanuts.
Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or cold.