I love cooking a pot of beans. The smell of them slowly simmering reminds me of my grandmothers kitchen. She always had a big clay pot of beans on the back of her old Wedgewood stove. Just a few years ago my family redesigned the kitchen in the home my grandparents had shared for 35 years. The decision to sell and upgrade the vintage 50’s stove was difficult. It was the focal point and center piece of that home. A place where we grew up enjoying many memorable meals. When they pulled it out from the wall, they said they found a note from me to my grandmother behind it.

I prefer to make these beans the day before I am going to use them, as the broth gets nice and soupy. The broth can be used for many things. I especially like to use it as a sauce in a simple pasta dish. And I never soak them and don’t believe it is necessary.

Pinto beans

Frijoles de olla

1 pound Pinto beans

1/2 white onion

2 tablespoons lard

1 tablespoon salt

Pick though your beans carefully, even the best brands may have small stones. I prefer to use the heirloom beans from the amazing company Rancho Gordo. Rinse them well in cold water and drain. Put the beans in a pot (it does not have to be the clay one my grandmother used) with at least 5 inches of hot water covering above the beans. Add the onion and lard (I’ve been getting my lard from Boccalone at the Ferry Building) and bring to a simmer. Be careful to cook your beans at a moderate temperature, this will help to keep them whole and with their skins intact. Continue to cook about an hour and test the beans to see if the skins are beginning to get soft, then add the salt and continue to cook about another hour. The timing of cooking beans totally reflects their freshness. Once the beans are done be sure to refrigerate them until ready to enjoy, as they tend to ferment quickly. You can enjoy them whole or well-fried (thus the name refrito).

Makes about 6 cups of beans