LIL' RED'S BOILED PEANUTS IN SAN ANTONIO CREATES DIPPING SPREADS THAT RIVAL TRADITIONAL HUMMUS
By Chuck Blount, San Antonio Express-News, October 2018
When Mike McAndrew opened up his Lil’ Red’s Boiled Peanuts business two years ago, his goal was to introduce the popular Southern snack he grew up with to a San Antonio-area audience unfamiliar with it. Boiled peanuts are a delicacy in many Southern states and are available in gas stations and roadside outposts for as little as 99 cents per pound.
McAndrew, a Pensacola, Florida native, operates his business out of a small kitchen space inside the LocalSprout Food Hub.
But in the process of churning out his traditional boiled peanuts in original and Cajun spice blends, he stumbled upon something that he believes is a unique spin. He took those same peanuts, whipped them with a mixture of spices and lemon juice, and created a line of dipping spreads with smoked red pepper and cilantro jalapeño that can be served warmed or cold.
What he developed is a peanut-based spread that has more in common with traditional hummus than any peanut butter. And it’s delicious as a savory dip for crackers and veggies, or even in a sandwich instead of mayonnaise or mustard.
“The key thing with peanuts is the flavor of a traditional roasted peanut, which you would use for a peanut butter, is completely different from that of a boiled peanut,” McAndrew said. “Peanuts are legumes, so when boiled, they act more like a bean dip.”
McAndrew’s recipe blend strays far from the traditional hummus ingredients as there’s no tahini or sesame oil is in his spreads. There’s a definite calorie bump when replacing chickpeas with peanuts (25 calories to 90 calories per serving), but that’s countered with the benefit of three times the protein.
McAndrew whips up about 60 units of each flavor per week and sells them in 8-ounce tubs for $7 at the New Braunfels Farmers Market on Saturdays, the Four Seasons Market at Huebner and Interstate 10 on Saturdays and at the Pearl Farmers Market on Sundays.
McAndrew also said that if he can figure out a proper shipping and refrigeration process, he plans to launch the dips across the South.
I’m OK with that, as long as I can keep renewing my supply here in San Antonio.
Chuck Blount is a food writer and columnist covering all things grilled and smoked in the San Antonio area. Find his Chuck's Food Shack columns on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com, or read his other coverage on our free site, mySA.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @chuck_blount | Instagram: @bbqdiver
MADE IN S.A.: LIL RED'S BOILED PEANUTS
By Audrey Castoreno, Kens5 News, October 2018
SAN ANTONIO — Roasted or made into peanut butter is usually how we eat peanuts in South Texas. But in parts of Florida, they’re boiled in brine water and eaten warm.
“This is just a common snack that was shared throughout generations," Lil Red’s Boiled Peanuts, owner Michael McAndrew said. Michael McAndrew grew up in [the panhandle of] Florida and came to Texas for the oil boom. When black gold took a dip he had some extra time on his hands and went back to Mom’s recipe.
"Once I realized you couldn't come across boiled peanuts here in Texas, that's when it kind of dawned on me that I should start sharing some boiled peanuts with some other folks," McAndrew said. McAndrew quickly learned the boiled peanut was a foreign object in these parts. "That threw me for a loop. It was something that I grew up with known as a traditional snack and people hadn't even heard of it," said McAndrew. So two years ago he came up with Lil Red’s Boiled Peanuts.
To get the perfect batch, it can take up to a half day to boil the traditional salted, Cajun and habanero flavored peanuts. "To get that tenderness and all that flavor inside the peanut- yeah it can take some time. You have to be patient for a good thing,” said McAndew.
He also says it’s not like eating a traditional roasted peanut. There’s a method to consuming them that McAndrew gets to show people when selling at farmers markets. The flavor and texture [are] nothing like eating a traditional roasted peanut either.
Although he may not have chosen the traditional path, just like his peanuts the wait is paying off. "It can be scary, but you have to keep your blinders on at times. Just whenever you know that it's a good thing you just have to keep pushing it,” McAndrew said. Pushing forward with one goal in mind. "To make sure every Texan has tried a boiled peanut,” McAndrew said.
LOCALSPROUT FOOD HUB PROVIDES HOME DEDICATED TO FOOD SUSTAINABILITY
By Iris Gonzalez, The Rivard Report, March 2017
A vision for a productive community of small-scale entrepreneurs making healthy food is taking root on San Antonio’s near Eastside. Mitch Hagney started the indoor farm LocalSprout in 2013. Located just off I-35, the former printing plant warehouse has become home to the LocalSprout Food Hub, a community of food-producing vendors who share resources within the warehouse.
One of Hagney’s goals is to make fresh, sustainable food part of Eastside residents’ diet. He also wanted to create a community of like-minded food producers who support each other in their pursuit of food sustainability.
Since 2015, the community of entrepreneurs at the Food Hub has grown to 12 vendors, many of whom participate in a weekly event, held Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. The event is open to the public and hosted by food wholesaler Truckin’ Tomato.
Hagney started his small hydroponic farm inside a freight container set up with strings of red and blue LED lights hung from the ceiling and a constant flow of water and nutrients feeding plants via PVC tubing. The container sits in the warehouse and grows an acre’s worth of crops in a tenth of the space.
Because his farm uses a closed system of recirculated water enriched with nutrients, it uses only a fraction of the water typically used in conventional farming. Sensors allow Hagney to set up automated systems that grow produce year round, such as Swiss chard, arugula, lettuce mixes, basil, and kale.
“We can grow indoors now, with better, cost-effective LED lighting,” Hagney said. “We deliver everything we grow within one hour of the time we harvest it.”
But Hagney had bigger goals for the Food Hub – to help food producers just starting out become sustainable.
“There are a number of businesses that knew they had a market but didn’t have sufficient volume to build out a big enough facility to support their food business,” he said. “Being under one roof helps vendors share costs for security, bathrooms, sinks, grease traps, electrical. The build-out costs have been less for each than if each had built out their own separate place.”
Sharing the overhead has enabled many of the small vendors to keep their business going. Several of them are in the process of building out their own commercial spaces and kitchens, such as RiceRise, JD’s Chili Parlor, and Lil’ Red’s Boiled Peanuts.
One of the first vendors to join the Food Hub, Truckin’ Tomato has grown into a thriving business. “The Food Hub allowed us to grow as a food producer,” founder Shaun Lee said. “We started in a trailer, then outgrew the room we used as our second place. Here we’re aggregating produce from local farmers to sell.” Truckin’ Tomato principally sells produce to local restaurants, with the Wednesday market serving as a means to bring chefs in to see and use local produce. “Café Dijon’s chef does menu planning based on what seasonal produce is available here,” Lee said. “That’s what we hoped would happen, so we’re happy that local chefs are now starting to plan menus based on locally produced vegetables.”
Some new products and selling relationships have emerged from the community of vendors working collaboratively. “We use produce from Truckin’ Tomato to make some of our products, and in turn they sell some of our mustards, sauces, jams, and jellies,” said Cheri White, owner of Deep River Specialty Foods. “We also buy from Texas Black Gold Garlic for our black gold garlic mustard. We make cookies and brownies for Healthy Vending to sell in local schools and use Pulp Coffee in our biscotti and brownies.”
JD’s Chili Parlor uses Deep River’s rodeo whiskey barbecue sauce and produce from Truckin’ Tomato in its vegetarian chili. The list of new food products emerging from these new relationships is long and impressive.
“Madge’s Food Company got a wholesale account when we brought in FreshPoint to talk to another vendor,” Hagney said. “Every one of these businesses needs to have relationships with the other so it becomes an interdependent food ecosystem. Putting everyone in the same place makes it easier for opportunities to happen.”
The Food Hub Plans for Growth
In asking vendors at different farmers markets about their business challenges, Hagney found that almost all agreed there was no good place to build an affordable commercial kitchen. The Food Hub will soon offer kitchen space for food manufacturers to rent on an hourly basis. Half the money has already been raised to build the commissary kitchen for small food vendors.
“We came on board after looking all over the place for kitchen rentals,” said Mike McAndrew, owner of Lil’ Red’s Boiled Peanuts. “If it wasn’t for the Food Hub, we wouldn’t have our own company, because the costs for building your own commercial kitchen are so prohibitive.”
In addition to the 12 food vendors, the Food Hub has added Box Street Social, a food truck owned by Eddie Garcia.
“We’re looking for five more trucks to join us,” Hagney said. “Eddie [Garcia] will also use the new kitchen for his large catering jobs, and we can start thinking about hosting pop-up dinners in the future.”
There are plans to plant fruit trees and herbs on the property in addition to the crops already being grown in front. Waste is repurposed whenever possible, such as the chaff left over from coffee roasting that is added to the soil. Solar panels will be installed on roof within a month.
Hagney also told the Rivard Report about plans to buy a whole animal smoker, which is larger than a Caja China roasting box typically used to roast pigs.
“We’ll have a huge amount of cold storage that can be rented out by the square foot for vendors and local ranchers, so a rancher can drop off huge portion of beef that customers can then pick up from the Food Hub,” Hagney said.
Food Sustainability Needs Community to Flourish
The supportive community at the Food Hub is a big draw for vendors.
“We’re interested in being part of a vibrant community focused on local sourcing for food,” JD’s Chili Parlor co-founder John Anderson said. “We’re also partnering with a local pork rancher and longhorn beef rancher for our chili, because it’s important to use locally produced meats and the freshest ingredients possible in our chilis.”
Hagney said the Food Hub’s focus is to build small businesses to boost the sustainability of local food producers.
“Farmers typically sell at farmers markets or to restaurants, so the Food Hub is intended to make it easier for them to sell directly to more consistent chefs and producers, providing a stable source of demand for these small-scale farmers and ranchers,” he added.
The work to create the larger community that is now the LocalSprout Food Hub has been nonstop.
“We’ve been continuously improving the building since summer 2015,” Hagney said. “When we first started, the windows were shattered, there was junk everywhere, it was a derelict building. We loved it back into existence.”
From a dilapidated warehouse filled with junk cars to a thriving community of small-scale entrepreneurs, the LocalSprout Food Hub has come a long way. With more vendors and features being added, it promises to make an even larger impact on local food sustainability over time.