By: Phoebe Hyde
While cruising down the two-lane highway, a grass median as a barrier between the minimal oncoming traffic, we pulled a u-turn about ¼ of a mile past this traditional, Cracker Barrel-like establishment. The billboard for Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts had caught our eye about two miles back. “Mackey’s Ferry” rang a bell after our initial research of the outer banks region that once depended on Mackey’s Ferry to transport visitors from the mainland to the outer banks in the once-upon-a-time absence of a bridge connecting the mainland to the island. While handing us free samples of all sorts of treats, Pam (the employee working at the time), explained to us that original ownership of the establishment dates back twenty years, with the current owner holding authority for the past three.
A plethora of aromatic goodies fill the store, leaving not an empty space on any wooden bookcase-like shelf. From homemade peanut butter, peanuts, and peanut brittle, to 20 kinds of fudge, to molasses cookies awarded the 2010 Blue Ribbon from North Carolina’s Specialty Food Association, to North Carolina muscadine grape cider slushies, to moonshine jelly, Mackey’s can pretty much offer any cure for a sweet tooth. While about half of the store is canned products, each good is locally grown, making this establishment rather unique. The other half of the store if filled with tourist-focused items, inclusive of t-shirts, stuffed animals, mugs and other merchandise.
The substantial size of the building initially perplexed me, given the name of the establishment, which clearly dedicated the store to peanuts. What was so special about peanuts and why would such a place be located here amongst vast open fields in the quiet town of Jamesville? Well, I soon learned, upon additional research, that North Carolina is the third-largest peanut producer in the United States, right below Georgia and Texas. The state as a whole is home to more than five thousand peanut farmers in twenty-two counties. Now things started to make a bit more sense.
Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts housed a larger variety of peanuts than I had ever known even existed—dry roasted, blister fried, flame thrower, French fried, salt and pepper peanuts and more. My tolerance and fondness for heat made me partial to the flame thrower peanuts. Pam, however, preferred blister friend, which are made by soaking the peanuts in water prior to roasting them. As I spooned out my third helping of flamethrower peanuts from the free sample jar, I inquired about how all of these peanuts were made. Pam willingly shared the peanut making process with us. First the peanuts are roasted, then your grind them up and add molasses, salt and powdered sugar. The last ingredient threw me for a loop, but they sure as hell tasted good! We learned that eight people at Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts are in charge of making the peanuts each Monday of every week, allowing the peanuts to be served the following day. However, eight quickly turns into about 16 employees around Christmas time, according to Pam.
We were pleased with our choice to stop into Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts for a tasteful snack before proceeding another hour or so eastwards along Highway 64, and would recommend choosing Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts as a pit stop to break up the long westward drive down the straight, two-lane highway when leaving the beach!