Making beans from scratch is pretty easy, so you have to wonder why everyone doesn’t do it. Canned beans are okay in a pinch, but many are overcooked and insipid (Whole Foods brand is pretty decent, even the refried ). And dried beans are much cheaper than canned. For anything large, where I have more than a couple hours notice, I always make mine myself.
I made two big pots of beans for Miriam’s birthday party.
- Plain whole black beans
- Refried pinto beans
Start off by soaking them overnight (at least 4 hours but 8 is better; up to 24 is okay). Simply measure the beans into a pot and use filtered water to cover, plus several inches. They will expand a lot. I don’t bother to wash them since I dump the soaking water. If there is a chance of a stone, dirt clod, or bum beans, dump them on a table or cookie sheet and sort by hand while still dry.
I used 3 cups of dried black beans and 4 cups of dried pinto beans.
After soaking for some time (these went about 24 hours), and adding more water as needed, the beans look like this.
Dump each pot into a colander and discard the soaking water. Put the beans back into the pot, add more water (filtered) to cover plus an inch or so, and cook on medium heat until the beans are soft.
For plain beans, they are done at this point. I added a bit of salt to the black beans, but that was it. I used a slotted spoon to lift them into a bowl for serving.
For refried beans, you have an extra step (or two or three). I minced one very large yellow onion in the food processor (some liquefied, which was fine, but make sure some has some texture to it) and sautéed it in olive oil. I added two gutted jalapeños to the fine mince/liquefy part of the onion processing. The bite was there at first but got lost after the beans were fully cooked, so more would have been better for a non-kids party. When the onions had some color on them, I added the pot of beans, along with salt.
Cook until most of the liquid is gone. They will solidify when cool, so you can leave them slightly more watery than you think would work. At some point during the cooking, preferably after the heat has been off for a while, use a stick blender or potato masher to smash up the beans.
Serve warm with tortillas or anything you like.
(many thanks to Yorick Phoenix for several of the photos)