As a Charleston-based purveyor of specialty foods, former caterer, and all-around champion of local culinary traditions, Jimmy Hagood, owner of Food for the Southern Soul, has cooked up his fair share of Lowcountry boils (aka Frogmore stew) and boiled peanuts. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, however, that it occurred to him to use the byproduct of one to make the other even more addictive.
“The light bulb went off one summer day when I was doing a Lowcountry boil,” Hagood says. “We were going to the beach the next day, and I thought, ‘You know, I’m going to take this leftover boil water and boil some peanuts to take along.’”
Once you hear it, the idea makes so much sense. The shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes, corn, and seasoning of a Lowcountry boil are bound to lend loads of flavor to the water left in the pot. And peanuts soak up a lot of the water (typically just salted) in which they are boiled. The experiment was an instant success. “My daughter and her friends went through those peanuts like no tomorrow,” Hagood says. “It was the birth of something.”
Even so, Hagood says the notion wasn’t a total epiphany. “When you buy boiled peanuts on the side of the road, you sometimes find different flavors, like spicy ones. Years ago I ran into a guy who told me about including a ham hock. So I think the idea collected over time.”
Hagood likes the peanuts’ depth of flavor so much that he doesn’t always hold off on making his next batch until he does a Lowcountry boil. Instead, he’s formulated a boil water with ingredients that closely approximate the same flavors. He shares that recipe below, for those of us who are eager to experience this wizardry for ourselves.