How one chef celebrates Virginia’s premium goober from Hubs Peanuts
n 1950s Sedley, Virginia, housewife Dot Hubbard unknowingly engineered a decades-long brand when she began selling her blister-fried peanuts to nearby pharmacies, shops, and neighbors. Using the plumpest peanuts she could find on her father’s farm, she blanched then fried the nuts until golden brown and impossibly crunchy, a technique she learned growing up. Her family recipe set the first model for commercialized blister-fried peanuts, and the jumbo nuts outmatched anything the USDA had seen at the time (they’ve since been categorized as Super Extra Large or XXL grade). As Hubs Peanuts enters its 70th year in business, it maintains a loyal, almost cultlike following and remains family operated, now by Dot’s daughter and grandson, Lynne Rabil and Marshall Rabil.
“The peanuts stand alone by themselves, and [Hubs] walking the path as a woman-owned business for so long really resonated with me as a chef,” says Tennessee-based chef Tyler Brown. He first encountered the peanuts during one of his early jobs cooking at Virginia’s Keswick Hall. The upscale mountain resort kept canisters of Hubs Peanuts in the rooms. One day, Brown opened a can and was blown away by the texture. “I remember thinking, ‘This is a premier peanut!’” he says. “Over time, I realized there’s nothing out there quite like that.” He felt drawn to Hubs, saying, “I’ve been really seeking where the agriculture and hospitality world come together.” When he partnered with the luxe agritourism resort Southall as executive chef, Hubs became the exclusive peanut offered in rooms and on the menu.
Brown, who has since moved on from Southall, prefers simplistic preparations that highlight natural flavors, working with ingredient by products rather than reinventing the wheel every time he cooks. In an effort to merge his love for both Hubs’ deep flavor and the butter-soft texture of boiled pea nuts, Brown experimented with boiling. Hubs in broth from cooked Carolina conch peas from Marsh Hen Mill. Not only did the jumbo peanuts soften, but they also absorbed the earthy, sultry flavors of the leftover pot likker—a sort of cross between boiled peanuts and savory beans. He gave them a hummus treatment, pureeing them into a smooth, creamy dip along with herbs and an extra peanut garnish on top for a crunchy finish.
Carolina Conch Pea Dip
Makes 3 cups
1 cup Marsh Hen Mill Carolina conch peas
3⁄4 cup Hubs Sweet Heat peanuts, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon white miso paste (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 quart vegetable broth
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
5 tablespoons Oliver Farms green peanut oil, divided
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Zest from 1 lemon
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine Carolina conch peas, ½ cup peanuts, garlic, miso, bay leaves, a generous pinch of salt, and broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until peas turn tender, then discard bay leaves and strain cooked peas and peanuts, reserving cooking liquid.
- In bowl of a food processor, add peas and puree, adding reserved liquid in increments to create a smooth dip. Season with salt; add lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of green peanut oil, and pulse once more to blend seasoning into dip. Transfer to serving bowl.
- Coarsely chop reserved ¼ cup peanuts and set aside. In a small dish, combine parsley, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon green peanut oil. Garnish dip with parsley mixture, chopped peanuts, and remaining tablespoon of peanut oil.