Appalachian Food

Parched Peanuts

Today’s guest post was written by Keith Jones.


I never particularly cared for that most southern of snacks, boiled peanuts. To me, they were too slimy and too salty. But what wouldn’t I give to burn my fingers on some of the tiny red parched peanuts that were my Dad’s Sunday night snack specialty when I was growing up.

Dad had been the only son growing up with seven sisters. Somehow, probably since he was the next-to-youngest, he learned to cook as well as do all the ‘manly’ chores around the farm. I don’t know when he learned to parch peanuts, but it was probably either on a woodburning stove or over an open fire, using a wire basket that was typically used for popping a small amount of corn. 

Sunday nights after church, we’d usually fix a supper of sandwiches. If we were particularly lucky, Dad would take out the battered old 7”x10” oblong metal cake pan that was used exclusively to parch peanuts. Dad would fill the bottom of the pan with raw peanuts in the shell. He’d turn on the oven at 375 or 400 (it depended on his ‘best guess’ at how old the peanuts were.) Then he’d keep close watch, reaching in every few minutes to shake the pan and make sure that the peanuts weren’t getting too cooked. Sometimes he made a mistake, and the peanuts got burned. We ate them anyway!

But most times, the peanuts would be done just right! These weren’t ‘salted in shell’ peanuts. He’d try to get us to wait until the shells cooled, but we were too eager to eat them. We’d slightly scorch our fingers on the hot shells, and majorly scorch our tongues on the hot peanuts. Sometimes you’d even hear one sizzle against your tongue. But they were great! Sometimes Dad would even make another batch for us. Rarely were there any left to snack on the next day. No other form of peanuts tastes quite like those did. 

The fresh peanuts you get these days have been hybridized and are much larger than the ones we used to parch. They don’t seem to have as much flavor, either. Sometimes the ones we used had been raised on my great-granddad’s farm by my Aunt Avery and Aunt Ethel. Those were the best! But even peanuts bought at the old Vestal Store in Epworth were wonderful when we had a peanut parchin’ of a Sunday night.

—Keith Jones

Keith was a great friend of the Blind Pig and The Acorn. This time of the year I always remember him and the stories he like to tell. I was looking through some old correspondence recently and found this guest post he’d sent me a couple of years before he passed away.

Unlike Keith I do love boiled peanuts—I can eat them by the handfuls. I’ve never had parched peanuts but now I want to try them.

Last night’s video: My Life in Appalachia 17 – Fermenting, Pickling, and Putting Up.


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  • Reply
    Angelyn Mclain
    October 28, 2021 at 9:41 am

    In the place that I was raised in, we had a town square. It had many stores surrounding it and one was called Elmores. It had everything in it for your family or your house. I can close my eyes and still hear the creaking of the hardwood floors and the smell of fresh popcorn and roasted peanuts. They sold the peanuts in little brown bags. They had a terrific candy counter too!

  • Reply
    October 26, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Growing up in southeast Missouri my Grandpa Casey always grew about ½ an acre of peanuts. It was enough to see the extended family through the winter. And a bonus was the cows got to eat the vines, which they loved. Every evening grandpa would put an old pan on top of the wood burning heating stove in the living room and then add unshelled peanuts. He’d stir and shake them until they were just right. Then we’d all eat peanuts until we were ready to pop. They sure were good.

  • Reply
    Elaine Medley
    October 25, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    I haven’t heard the word “parched” in years but my Mama parched peanuts.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    We have never patched peanuts. I don’t know if I like em or not. Talking about putting them in the stove, reminded me when I was a child, my dad would open the woodstove and place a few potatoes in there and let them bake that way. Gosh, they were good with some cows butter.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    What a great story from Keith. I sure can appreciate any of the snack foods enjoyed growing up. Those days were so different from our present throwing a frozen Pizza in the oven. or even worse in the microwave. Many foods I once thought delicious I will not touch now such as chicken livers, gizzards, pickled pig feed, and of course squirrel. Those were normal food items. For snacking I loved the parched corn. There was a taste there that completely changed the corn taste. Life back then was much more simple, and it seemed overtime they had figured out a way to take just regular simple food and make it fit for a king. I doubt if any king ever got to indulge in parched corn or peanuts. Oh yes, and we loved that steak house that let you throw the peanuts on the floor, because frankly we enjoyed the peanuts more than the steak.

  • Reply
    donna sue
    October 25, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    This will be another food to try! I have never had boiled peanuts, either. Like Mr. Jones family, Sunday evenings growing up, us kids fixed ourselves cereal or a sandwich for supper. Some rare occasions Mom might make a frozen pizza. Every other meal through the week, my Mom always made. We didn’t even make our own sandwiches during the week. This is why I absolutely didn’t even know how to boil water when I moved out on my own on my 18th birthday. We always had a big lunch after church, and us kids spent the day at our grandparents’ after lunch on Sunday’s while Mom and Dad spent the afternoon by themselves going for a drive. It was their date time away from all of us kids. My older sister and I had to get lunch dishes done before we could go over to our grandparent’s. Lyn washed and I dried. We started this chore when I was in 6th grade — and my sister hated me for it. Prior to us having to do the dishes, my mom always did them. One day I had been at a friend’s and helped her mom and her do their dishes. I came home and told my parents how much fun I had doing that (and I really did enjoy it). So Dad said “since you had so much fun and you think it’s something great to do, your sister and you can now do the dishes instead of your mom!”. Yep, Lyn was not happy with me over that one. Honestly, doing dishes has never bothered me, so I still don’t mind doing them. I really enjoy reading everyone else’s wonderful memories. I love hearing about other people’s lives. Life is so fascinating!!

    Donna. : )

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    I have rarely ever parched peanuts. When I did it was in the oven. It’s true that they keep parching after taken out and set aside for cooling. I’d like to learn how to boil peanuts because I have acquired a taste for them. When I was a late teen my girlfriend spent her summers at the beach outside Charleston, SC, in the low country. I had my first taste of boiled peanuts from a roadside vegetable stand run by sweet black lady named Katie where we could also buy ‘Charleston baskets’ – sweet grass baskets – she made. I wasn’t too keen on them at first but soon went back and bought a whole bunch of them. I cannot pass a stand selling boiled peanuts now. It always surprised me to find so many places selling boiled peanuts in the mountains because they sure don’t grow well (or at all) there.

    I must have eaten a ton of roasted peanuts as a kid. I grew up in Raleigh within easy walking of the State Capitol. In those days there were iron benches along the sidewalk on Morgan street at the top of Fayetteville street on capitol square. There was an old fellow who brought peanut roaster there every day and sold peanuts by the bag. The small bag was a nickel and the large bag a dime. I think his heater was run on kerosene, but I’m not sure. Every time I went through the capitol grounds I bought at least one bag of peanuts. Most people hulled them and fed them to the hundreds of pigeons that flocked there for the food, but they got few of them from me.

    As for the difference between parched and roasted, I always made that distinction based on whether is was done in or out of the shell. In the shell we called roasted. Out of the shell we called parched. Might not be right but that was the way we distinguished between ’em.

    If anybody has a good recipe for boiled peanuts, please share it. I’ve always heard that you had to have green or, at least, un-dried goobers to boil ’em. I need to know more about that, too.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 11:47 am

    Boy, do those parched peanuts sound yummy! Makes me think of when my Daddy made popcorn on Saturday night when I was a kid. What a treat!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    October 25, 2021 at 11:32 am

    We used to have home grown parched peanuts and home grown popcorn. We received the government commodities so we could have buttered popcorn–it took a whole dishpan full of popcorn for all of us. It seems like I remember Mama parching corn, too. We always had wonderful watermelons & “mush melons”. Nothing in the snack aisle is a delicious and healthy as what we had!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Well, this isn’t this a serendipitous post! My father-in-law was just asking me if I knew how to parch peanuts (I’m guessing since we’re wrapping up peanut season here in Georgia).
    I had never heard of parched peanuts, certainly roasted, fried, and boiled but not parched.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 11:16 am

    That sure brought back a precious memory of near 70 years ago. I was sitting in a cane back chair with my Grandparents around their fireplace. We had gone down south for Christmas and Daddy had gone back to the kitchen and brought out some what he called “parched peanuts” he had parched in the oven. It was the best treat ever to a little girl along with the good family stories I heard that night. I’m glad Keith explained why the peanuts today taste different because after my parents had passed I tried to parch some peanuts and couldn’t understand why they didn’t taste as good as those years ago. I love peanuts just not the boiled ones.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 25, 2021 at 10:42 am

    I never understood the difference in parching and roasting. I wish somebody would explain it to me. I like salted in the shell roasted peanuts. I tried boiled peanuts one time and remember thinking “they took a perfectly edible legume and turned it into this?” It was like eating peanuts right out of the ground only worse.
    Daddy tried growing peanuts one year. He bought a bushel to plant and harvested half a bushel that fall. He never tried peanuts again. Daddy knew that peanuts need lots of sun, warm temperatures and sandy soil to grow well. He knew that mountain hollers provided neither. He thought maybe, since beans and peas grew well, why not try their cousin the peanut. He learned his lesson. No more peanuts.
    I really my peanuts as peanut butter. I’m also picky about which brand to buy. I’ve tried them all. Most are too sweet. I’ve settled on JIF.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    October 25, 2021 at 9:57 am

    When I was a boy, my father would patch peanuts too. He enjoyed eating them green, but occasionally would patch a pan full in their shells in the oven. I loved them then, and I still do. I think they’re better than the roasted in the shell peanuts one can buy in the local grocery stores.

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 9:33 am

    That was such a good story and a wonderful memory of your friend Keith Jones. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    Lana Stuart
    October 25, 2021 at 8:55 am

    My daddy was a peanut farmer (several hundred acres) so we, of course, had peanuts all kinds of ways. When daddy brought some home from the field, we three girls would be tasked with picking the green peanuts off the vine. Then mama would wash them over and over until they were clean. Most of them would be boiled, but a few were set a side to dry out and “cure” for parching during the winter. The small red skinned ones are Spanish peanuts. The big, fat ones are Virginia peanuts, and the ones with three to a shell are Runners. They each have their own distinctive flavor and they’re all delicious!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 8:46 am

    I’ve had homemade parched corn but not parched peanuts. Years ago there used to be a dime store in Ashland KY. that sold hot roasted red skin peanuts. They were so hot you needed to let then cool for a minute or two. Now as for boiled peanuts I really like them but there is only one place that I know of in Ashland to buy them. Boiled peanuts never caught on in my part of E.KY.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    October 25, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I liked the parched peanut story for certain. Along lines of parched- I got a diaper rash recipe from my GRANDMOTHER who’d be well over 100 by now and it is simply this- PARCH flour in a skillet and let it cool. Put it in a covered bowl and put it on the baby at each change and the little one’s bottom will get healed in no time!!!! It’s a tried and true winner that gets the chicken dinner even on severe bloody rashes I’ve seen from friends babies…. write it down y’all cause it works!!! I’m not into peanuts mainly because I have Crohns Disease and it makes for living, wrenching hell…. but peanuts smell delightful. Can’t say I’ve ever seen or eaten boiled peanuts or parched for that matter.

    • Reply
      October 25, 2021 at 11:42 am

      I understand parched peanuts, but I don’t understand how one parches flour. Does it change color? How much heat is required? How big is a batch of parched flour?

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 8:39 am

    Now, I’m hungry for parched peanuts- haven’t had them in years. My Memaw and my Mama and even me used to shake and parch a mess of ’em and I’ve had them burnt, as well. They also liked the boiled, but not me.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 25, 2021 at 7:48 am

    I parched some raw peanuts last week using a “recipe” I found online which called for 15-20 minutes at 350. But it stipulated dried peanuts and those I had were not and were rather moist. Also was silent about whether to pre-heat oven and I did not. Turned out that prescription was not long enough. I ended up at about 27 minutes for a light roast with touches of medium, probably from not shaking them enough. But I didn’t burn any.

    Now I have some I bought already roasted. If I were to start with raw again I think I would dry them in my dehydrator first and also pre-heat the oven. If I were doing enough, I think I would do 3 variations on the time and try to get a light, medium and dark roast both to figure out what I liked best and to narrow down on the “recipe”. I was warned though that the roast would continue for awhile after being taken from the oven.

    My Dad would roast peanuts but I cannot recall now just how he did it. I think he roasted them on top of our coal stove in the living room. Of course that was all by sight, smell and sampling. But he did a good job with them.

    I like to carry peanuts in the shell in my pocket in the woods. They make a good trail food, as do pecans. And the ‘packaging’ is not trash so no littering.

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    October 25, 2021 at 7:15 am

    Personally I don’t want to have to work too hard for my peanuts. Oh it’s ok to buy a sack of them at the ballpark and shell and eat them while the game is going but if I’m home I’d rather get my store bought salted cocktail peanuts. But I can appreciate the memories Keith had growing up with his family and enjoying the roasted peanuts. But a sizzle on the tongue and I’m done!!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2021 at 6:34 am

    We would grow our own peanuts that my daddy would parch during the winter. Sitting or for me laying in the floor in front of the fireplace eating parched peanuts and throwing the hulls in the fire is a favorite memory of mine.

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