Here’s a confession: I had no idea refried beans contained pork up until I actually tried making them. I’ve bought a few cans of refried beans with “vegetarian” on the label back in the day, but I thought this was bizarre, as of course they’re vegetarian, they’re beans! I figured it was the equivalent of slapping “low-carb” on a bag of vegetables, just another way to try to make people buy your product. I’ll also blame the fact that I’m from the US, where if there’s meat in something, you’re probably going to see giant chunks of it. But nope, pork lard seems to be what gives refried beans their fabulously savory flavor.
So to make refried beans, you take a bunch of pinto beans and let them sit in a pot overnight with water. Or you can bring the pot to a boil, then turn off and cover with a lid and let sit for a few hours. Or, if you’re super paranoid about your beans not getting soft, you can do both of these. Which I did. Then, after sufficient soaking, I let the beans simmer for a few hours. I kept having to add water, and near the end of the process I’d try squishing the beans with a large fork. Seems that I need to invest in a potato masher one of these days, as that would be highly useful for bean mashing. Anyhow, I’d squish, let them simmer 15 more minutes or so, then squish again, adding more water as needed. Eventually they resembled a liquidey bean mash.
While simmering, I added some salt and pepper. According to the internet, you can also add cumin and garlic for bonus deliciousness, but this time around I was going with a basic recipe.
So, pork lard. I’ve been shopping at Rancho Liborio lately, and I’d seen pork lard there before, but when I actually wanted to buy it, I just couldn’t find it. The few times I’ve gotten something from the meat counter there, I’ve always spoken with an English-speaking person. And as I’m usually buying something I can just point to anyhow, I haven’t necessarily needed an English-speaking person. But alas, when I actually have to ask someone something, that’s when language fails me.
“Where is the pork lard?” should not be a complicated thing do ask. However, I know just enough Spanish to want to try asking it, and not enough Spanish to be in any way successful at communicating in Spanish. In this case, I had no idea how to say “lard” in Spanish. After failing to communicate with a woman in the meat aisle, she directed me to the meat counter, whereupon I failed to communicate with the man there. Via me flailing my arms and talking about refried beans, he eventually figured out what I needed, and I shall now forever remember that “grasa” = “lard” in Spanish.
Pork lard is strange stuff. It’s like a giant slab of bacon, except made mostly of fat. I found that it fried best if I could slice it into smaller slivers, and even then it threatened to shrivel up and get crispy on me. As the pan filled with grease, I would pour it into the pot of beans, as I wasn’t sure if the rest of the lard would liquefy if there was a bunch of liquid lard already there.
So once I had gotten as much of the lard to liquefy as possible, I dumped the beans in the pan, and pushed everything around until the excess water fried out and the beans resembled refried beans.
The texture on these was great, but they were a bit bland. Next time I’ll have to try some cumin and garlic. The process is a bit lengthy, but it was strangely satisfying to make my own refried beans. This is also incredibly awesome to make if you like being cheap, as beans are one of the cheapest things you can buy.