Recipe: Refried Beans

It’s time for another recipe!  This one is a bit different, who makes their own refried beans anymore?  Well, we do!  We were at Costco one day when I expressed that I had read that making your own beans is far cheaper and healthier than buying precooked, canned beans.  Steph being a former chef was up for giving it a try on the condition that I do most of the cooking of the beans.  I agreed and did some research.  I found an amazing article on cooking beans and learned that there’s an old wives tale about presoaking your beans before cooking.  And sure enough as I have looked at recipes, they all say to presoak your beans over night before cooking.  The summary of that article I linked is this:  “… don’t bother soaking your black beans. Un-soaked beans taste better, cook almost as quickly, have great texture, and don’t cause significantly worse problems for the digestive system.”  As a side note, I love his journalistic integrity.  He only tested black beans and his conclusion was only about black beans.  A far cry from modern journalism.  Another article I read did seem to think that presoaking them cut about 45 minutes off the cook time, but added that: “when I sampled them, the extra 45 minutes paid off.”  He continued: “The unsoaked beans had a noticeably deeper flavor; they were firmer to the bite, and they did not break up as much in cooking.”

Armed with a wealth of knowledge from my research, I began crafting my own recipe for refried beans.  I looked at two other recipes in particular one from Serious Eats and one from Simple Recipes.  From this and several delicious experiments, here’s what I’ve come up with:

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Refried Beans

Details

Time – 120 minutes (only around 15 minutes of actual work)

Skill – None

Servings – 6-8 cups

Cost – virtually free

Ingredients

1 lb dried beans (about 3 cups)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons bacon fat

1/2 onion chopped

Water

Cheese, Salt, and Pepper to taste

 

Directions

 

Wash beans & place in pot.  Add water until beans are covered by 3″.  Add salt.  Important note here, there’s a lot of articles online about how adding acidic foods (example: tomatoes) and/or salt during the cooking process will make the beans shell become impenetrable.  I have made this recipe several times not and not found salt to hinder the process at all.  I think it’s important to flavor the water during the cooking process or you’ll find that the beans need even more salt at the end to become tasty.  Bring water to a boil and reduce to a medium – low simmer.  Simmer for 2 hours checking water level every 1/2 hour.  You may find the beans are cooked as early as 1 hour in.  If this is the case, you do not need to keep cooking.  Make sure beans remain submerged in water the whole time.  When the beans are tender and the shell starts to crack on the beans, remove from heat and strain, saving the bean-water runoff.

In a separate skillet, sauté onion in bacon fat.  Add beans.  While cooking mash with potato masher or puree with a submersion blender.  I recommend the blender, it’s much easier.  As the beans start to dry out, add the bean-water to rehydrate.  This water is what contains all the nutrients from those beans and it adds a really good flavor as well.  Add cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.
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