Since the late 19th century, peanuts have been one of Levy County’s most vital agricultural commodities. Four decades ago, the county even set a national record for its peanut harvest and even today peanuts are still a key crop around the county’s farms.
There are several varieties of peanut grown in Levy County, with Valencia, Virginia and runner varieties all making an appearance in fields. Runners are, however, the predominate crop, being used as the seed crop as well as to produce candies, oil and, of course, peanut butter.
When compared to runners, Virginia peanuts have a larger size. These are roasted then salted inside their shells for eating out of your hand – just like ballpark peanuts. Meanwhile, Valencia peanuts are used for the classic Southern treat boiling peanuts, which you can still find sold in markets or from roadside stands. While Valencia peanuts are still harvested by hand to this day, nowadays, Virginia and runner peanuts are harvested by machine since they don’t bruise so easily.
Peanuts are so important to Levy County that every October there is an annual festival to celebrate the wonderful legume. The Central Florida Peanut Festival is routinely held on October’s first Sunday in Williston, and celebrates everything peanutty. There are food booths where attendees can try all kinds of tasty legume treats from ice cream to candies and there is even a ceremony where the peanut king and queen are crowned! You can see just how vital this crop is to the local community!
In the spirit of the peanut festival, here are some delicious peanut recipes which capture the essence of Levy County and help you to get a real flavor of this corner of the state of Florida.
Whether you like your peanuts fiery hot or just deliciously flavored, this recipe can be adjusted to suit your personal preferences. All you need is some peanut oil, some garlic cloves, some chili powder and of course, some skinned and shelled peanuts. Heat up the oil in your skillet then add the garlic and peanuts, cooking while stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and some salt to taste. (You could use cayenne pepper for less spice). Carry on cooking and stirring for 2 minutes more before transferring to a cool plate.
Peanut Butter Bread
Making your own bread is always fun, and peanut butter bread is a particularly tasty treat. You can either make it in your own oven or, to take all the hard work out of it, you could simply use your own breadmaker. If you don’t have one, it’s well worth considering making the investment if you make a lot of homemade bread. The Zujirushi BB-PAC20 is ideal and Oven Shopper considers it the best bread maker on the market today.
To make peanut butter bread, you need a couple of cups of all-purpose flour together with 1/3 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¾ cup of crunchy peanut butter, an egg and a cup of milk. Simply pop all the ingredients into your bread maker and switch it on. Before you know it you’ll have the perfect breakfast bread that’s just waiting to be spread with butter!
Although macaroons are tricky to make in Florida because of the humidity, they’re possible if you prepare them if you’re planning to eat them quickly. And who wouldn’t gobble these delicious treats up! All you need is an egg white with ¼ cup of sugar, ½ cup of roasted peanuts that have been chopped and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the egg white until it is stiff then add in the sugar while beating the mix constantly. Stir the vanilla and peanuts into the mix and then put it onto cookie sheets in teaspoonfuls around 1.5” apart. Bake in a 300 degree oven until they are dry – around 15 minutes.
These are just three of the best local recipes using traditional Levy County ingredients. Even if you can’t get your hands on the real thing, any peanuts will do to get the delicious taste of real Florida. So get baking, and bon appetit!