Photo: “Bill Stagg, homesteader, with pinto beans, Pie Town, New Mexico" by Russell Lee, 1940.*
You know you’re in New Mexico when you find pinto beans in bulk in the produce section of your grocery store. You just scoop them up and buy them by the pound, or you can opt for some very large prepackaged bags of twenty pounds or so.
Here are a few pinto bean facts, in case you are interested. Come on, you know you are.
~The Legumes web site , which has a lot of other bean information as well, tells us that the pinto bean is the “most common bean eaten in the US with a consumption rate of almost 45% of all the beans eaten. Part of the reason for this is they are generally the cheapest bean you can purchase. But that doesn't mean they are cheap in nutrition or flavor. The nutrition in pinto beans compares favorably with their higher priced cousins and they have a pleasant, earthy flavor and powdery texture that blends with many other foods.”
~Chile and pinto beans are New Mexico’s State Vegetables
~Moriarty, New Mexico (the Pinto Bean Capital) has an annual Pinto Bean Festival, held on the 2nd Saturday of each October.
Long ago, I used to try to make something called "beans and cheese" for a friend who remembered his mother making the dish. Unfortunately, he had no idea what went into it, so we would just put together some pinto beans and some cheese and a bit of margarine, as I recall. We could eat a pot of that stuff and keep the whole week's supper budget under two dollars, cheese included.
Over the years I have refined my approach somewhat, resulting in the following recipe for Refried Beans. You should know that refried beans in general are neither fried, nor are they refried, but that they do sometimes contain large amounts of shortening or lard. I just can’t bring myself to put great slabs of white fat into a dish that is meant to be consumed, so I add a little bit of butter, which is bad enough. As a matter of fact, you might bypass (nice word, in this context) this recipe altogether, in favor of my healthier Pinto Bean recipe which I’ll also put down below.
1 lb. dried pinto beans (pick through, wash, soak overnight and drain, or bring cleaned beans to a boil in a little cold water to cover, boil one minute, turn off and cover, let soak for an hour, and drain). Add one quart salted water, simmer covered for 20-45 minutes—only until just cooked but not mushy. You might have to add some cooking time if you’re at a high altitude.
In the meantime, pan fry ½ lb. chorizo, or sausage, or ground beef (if you are a meat-eater) and set aside.
Sauté 3 cloves chopped garlic, 1 large onion, 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
Drain the cooked beans, save the liquid.
Mash the beans; add them to the meat and the onion mixture.
Add ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander, ¼ cup fresh lard (this is optional—you can use a bit of butter instead or skip it altogether), 1 cup grated jack cheese, and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Add a little of the reserved liquid until it’s the consistency you like, simmer while stirring for a few minutes.
For a healthier alternative, see the recipe for Pinto Beans.
2 cups dried pinto beans (pick through, wash, soak overnight and drain, or bring cleaned beans to a boil in a little cold water to cover, boil one minute, turn off and cover, let soak for an hour, and drain).
Add one quart salted water, 2 cloves of garlic, minced, ½ tsp. black pepper, ½ tsp. cumin, simmer covered for 20-45 minutes—only until just cooked but not mushy.
*This photograph is in the Public Domain and the Library of Congress believes that there are no known restrictions on its use. If you know of any restrictions, please let me know via the comment section of this post.