Saturday, May 18, 2013

Recipe: Homemade Refried Beans

... And now for something completely different.

So, it's a little heavy around here, right? What with the activism and the inspiration and the visits to prison?

Here's some food activism for you, then.

As I've been working to dramatically decrease the number of canned products I buy (if I can't get a BPA-free can), I realized I would have to find a substitute for one of my staple foods - canned refried beans. I'm rather famous in my family for my love of beans (c'mon, they are like the perfect food - filled with protein and fiber and deliciousness). There are a couple of companies, like Eden Organics, that make plain canned beans that are both readily available in many regular grocery stores and come in BPA-free cans. However, it's much harder to find the refried beans in my local groceries.

Luckily, I've discovered that making refried beans is incredibly easy and they taste 1000 times better if you make them at home. It really doesn't even seem like the same food. Just goes to show that most of the food we buy is processed to the point that we don't even know how the real thing tastes.

Before the recipe, a couple of notes:

  • Traditionally, refried beans are made with lard or bacon fat or some other animal fat. Because I don't eat red meat, I use butter in the recipe. It's extremely tasty, but if you are a carnivore and you want something more authentic you could substitute fat from an animal, I suppose.
  • You need cooked pinto or black beans for the recipe. I usually cook them in my slow cooker and then save 2-cup portions in my freezer, along with the liquid from the slow cooker. You can use canned beans, but of course, you want to be sure that you find one that says, "this can was made with a liner that does not include BPA," or something similar. 
  • I usually make my beans in the slow cooker with onion, garlic, and cumin. If I do, I reduce the amounts in the recipe below. The recipe below is written as if you're using plain beans.
Homemade Refried Beans

  • Cooked pinto or black beans with the liquid. For each cup of beans you use, you'll need:
    • 1 tbsp. butter
    • quarter of an onion, chopped
    • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 1/2 tsp. salt (I like less salt than many Americans, so you could use a little more if it's not flavorful enough for you)
    • 1/2 tsp. cumin
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Step 1: Place the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it's just about melted, throw in the onion and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes.

Step 2: Add the beans and the spices. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20-30 minutes or until the liquid is mostly reduced.

Step 3: Take the beans off the heat and mash with a potato masher until they are the consistency you want - I like mine to be chunky.

Step 4: Let sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken.

You can then use these in tacos or burritos, or as a side dish. Yum!

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