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Go nuts over peanuts – the versatile, scrumptous (and expensive) nut

There are many uses for peanuts.

I have been hearing about the high cost of peanut butter because of the terrible crops in the past years. Some have increased their prices by 40 percent, so if you like peanut butter, you are in for a shock.

I always use peanuts in my Thanksgiving menu. My husband loves his dish of creamed onions and peanuts, but the rest of us do not eat it as heartily as he does.

Peanuts are popular in the South and a lot of that popularity began in Alabama.

George Washington Carver, in his research at Tuskegee Institute early in this century, presented peanut soup as one of the many nourishing dishes to be derived from the versatile peanut. This is a savory soup usually made with peanut butter and chicken stock, and it is much better than it sounds. In Georgia, the soup never gained an avid following, but in Virginia it is found on many menus. But it was Carver who first gave the visibility to the soup, and in some places, it is called “Tuskegee Soup” in his honor.

To make this soup: Sauté ½ cup of finely chopped celery and ½ cup of finely chopped green onions (tops included) in 4 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy pot. When the vegetables are soft, slowly sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour, stirring until smooth. Gradually add 3 cups of warm chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Blend in ¾ cup of creamy peanut butter (you could use chunky), reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to achieve a smooth and thorough union of ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving, stir in 1½ cups of light cream or half-and half and reheat to just below boiling. A small dish of ground peanuts on the side of the table makes a nice garnish to be sprinkled on top of the soup by each diner. Serves four to six people.

This is my recipe for creamed onions and peanuts, which I have served for 36 years on Thanksgiving. It is taken from The Williamsburg Cookbook, which is one of the first cookbooks I acquired.

 

King’s Arms Tavern Creamed Onions and Peanuts

4-5 servings

16 whole small white onions

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cups whole salted peanuts

½ cup buttered breadcrumbs

¼ cup salted peanuts, coarse chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease 1-quart casserole.

Cook onions in boiling salted water until tender; drain.

Melt butter over medium heat; stir in flour and salt.

Add milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and slightly thickened.

Put onions in prepared casserole and pour cream sauce over them.

Stir in ¼ cup whole peanuts.

Top with buttered crumbs and chopped peanuts.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and lightly browned.

Since peanut butter is so expensive now, why not make your own. It is easy. Just use these easy steps:

Peanut Butter

Makes 1 ½ cups

2 cups peanuts (option: buy pre-roasted, salted peanuts)

1 ½ t. peanut oil or vegetable oil if desired

½ t. sugar, if desired

Pinch of salt

1. Roast the peanuts if not already roasted. Remove peanuts from shells and spread on a baking pan. Bake the peanuts at 350 degrees for six to eight minutes, shaking them every two minutes so they do not burn. Let them cool.

2. Pour the 2 cups into a food processor with the metal blade attached.

3. Add 1 ½ t. vegetable or peanut oil and cover the bowl with the food processor lid and chop the peanuts continuously for two to three minutes or until the mixture forms a ball, or the desired consistency.

4. Taste the peanut butter and add a dash of salt or sugar if needed.

5. You can store the peanut butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up two weeks.

Another fact I came across just this week is that more than half of the peanuts produced in America are grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan. There is a 10-day festival on Nov. 4-14 in Dothan and is the largest salute to a legume. The kick-off for the parade is a giant concrete mixer that rolls through the town spreading roasted peanuts wherever it goes. You could still catch the National Peanut festival.