I am weird. At least I can admit it. I love refried beans… pulverized. You couldn’t pay me to eat beans in their whole-state. There’s something about the texture. I don’t like the little burst of the bean coming through that skin that sticks to your tongue. Gross. But, to get homemade refried beans, I have to start out with a pot of pinto beans. I probably make a pot of beans once a week. Those who have tasted my pinto beans before they’ve been smashed to death and fried in pork fat say they’re tasty… but I wouldn’t know. I like making beans because they’re easy and cheap. I’m all about trying to stretch my dollar. There’s nothing better than a bean and cheese taco when you’re broke and hungry.
Okay, let’s get down to business.
What You Need:
- 1 pound of dried pinto beans
- ½ of a medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 or 2 jalapeños (seeded if you don’t want the spice)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder (I’m guessing… I just kind of sprinkle a random amount)
- 1 smoked ham hock
- 1 handful of cilantro stems and all (totally optional)
- Water to cover
Sort the beans. Sometimes you can find little pebbles in your bag of beans (especially if you went for the cheapest brand available). After you’ve sorted the beans, rinse them, and put them in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring the beans to a boil, and then remove from heat. Let the beans soak for one hour. Don’t skip this step. It’s important. This is a quick-soak method. If you have time, you can soak them over night in water, and you don’t have to worry about the boiling step.
After the beans have been soaked, drain the water, and put the beans in the crock pot. Add the onion, jalapeños, cilantro, ham hock, garlic, and pepper (wait at least 2 hours to add the salt, because if you add the salt within the first 2 hours of cooking, the skins will never soften). Add enough water to cover, plus at least another 1 inch above the beans.
Set the Crock Pot on low, and cook overnight. Usually, I cook these beans when I get off work around 11pm. Then, they’re in the Crock Pot around midnight. I turn them off around noon the next day. They’re probably done before 12 hours… but I’m thinking, the longer these sit in porky goodness, the better. The beans are done when they’re tender. If you cook the beans on high, they will be done in 5 or 6 hours. Take a slotted spoon, and remove the cilantro and throw it away. That’s why it’s best to just leave the stems on, because it’s easier to scoop them off the top. They should float.
*If you want to just make pinto beans, you’re done. If you want refried beans, continue…*
Making Refried Beans:
Now that you have a pot of pinto beans, you can make refried beans. I usually mash and fry the whole pot at one time, but you don’t have to do that. If you’re going to do the whole pot at once, you need about 1 or 2 teaspoons of BACON GREASE! Yes, bacon grease. It is delicious. If you’re from the South, and your parents didn’t care about your health, chances are, your mom had a can of bacon grease sitting by the stove. It’s liquid gold. You could use lard, but the store bought brick-o-lard is pretty tasteless.
Now it’s time to get to business. Mash the beans to death (in a skillet) with a handy-dandy potato masher. This is a great work-out. You can really take out your frustration on those beans. Got screaming kids running around all day? Have an idiot boss? Work in customer service? Fighting with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/pet? Mash those frustrations away… whoa, don’t get carried away. Next thing you know, you’re walking out of the kitchen covered in bean splatter. I usually mash a couple of ladle-fulls at a time. You want some of the liquid from the beans. My boyfriend likes really thick beans, but I like them a little thinner, so I compromise… our beans are somewhere in the middle. You can always add more liquid if the beans are looking too thick for your taste. Add your bacon grease to the beans, and stir it up. You’ll want to cook this on medium-high until the beans start to bubble… then a few minutes after that. Stir them constantly once they start bubbling, because you don’t want to waste all of your hard work by letting them burn. Once they’re heated thoroughly, and you’ve got the consistency you like, you’re done.