Refried Beans 101, Part II

Last week I wrote about falling in love with refried beans and learning how to make them. They are simple to cook and are the ultimate comfort food on a cold winter day.

The number of people who don’t know how to cook beans from scratch surprises me so they eat them from cans. Are they afraid of the beans? Is it because there is so much confusion about the right way to cook them  – to salt or not to salt, that is the question! Presoak or no? Cooking beans from dried is not mysterious or rocket science and takes little skill and effort. The results are so superior to canned beans that it’s one of those “shall not be named things”, so let’s not even talk about it. Plus there is a whole universe of fantabulous (yes, that’s a word) heirloom beans that are remarkably delicious and you can eat them plain, straight from the pot. So many flavors have been lost in the interest of commodity food production and people do not know what they are missing. Sad.

Start with the highest quality, freshest beans available. Beans get old; I vacuum pack mine if I don’t plan to use them within six months. You can cook beans on the top of the stove, in the oven, a crockpot, or a pressure cooker. I use an Instant Pot pressure cooker but since you may not have one of those, or even know what one is, I will write about the oven method.

In a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, add one pound of beans (a one pound package will make six cups cooked). Rinse them several times and watch out for gravel that could crack a tooth. Cover with about two inches of water. I add a scant quarter cup of my favorite ingredient, Maggi’s Klare Bruhe, a powdered European broth mix. Klare Bruhe is so good I don’t even think of it as food, but more like a magic potion (it’s available on Amazon). Toss in a few bay leaves. A lot of recipes call for adding aromatics like celery, onion, carrot and garlic to the beans but I find Klare Bruhe adds even more flavor. Bring the beans to a boil on the stove then simmer for about ten minutes. Put the pot in a 350⁰ oven. Cook until the beans are soft; that can be anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours. You can look up cooking times on the internet . . . or ask the AI. Too many beans? You can freeze the extra in their cooking liquid. Next week we will mash them up and maybe you too will fall in love with refried beans.