I love beans and use them in a number of dishes I cook. My ex-husband hated beans so I would never fix them. One day, a few years ago, I asked myself several questions: Why should I have to do without them? Why did I NEVER have chili beans when I needed them? Why did I have to run to the store every time I needed refried beans to make a tostado? The answer was because you can't cook beans for one person very easily. It just takes too much time. I remembered what my daughter, DeLee, used to do when she was cooking only for herself. She would spend one day a month cooking different meals and freezing them. So the solution: Cook beans once every month or six weeks, zip lock them and put in the freezer. I've been doing it ever since.
I usually start with 2 pounds of dry pinto beans. Pick through them to remove any debris, rocks, shriveled beans, etc. Then wash them several times to remove dirt.
Put beans into a large soup pot. Add a smoked ham hock or some chunks of smoked ham. Add one large chopped onion.
Add enough water to come up to about one inch below the top of pot.
Add 2 tablespoons molasses and 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard, and the black pepper. DO NOT ADD SALT AT THIS TIME.
Here's how I add the black pepper…I take the pepper can with the shaker side open and start shaking the can up and down while I slowly count to 15. Seriously. I don't shake the can 15 times. I shake the can up and down 2- 3 times for each number as I count.
Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on medium low. Check in a couple of hours to make sure there's still enough water in the pot. Cover again and continue cooking. Check a bean in another hour and see if it's soft. If not check again in an hour.
Once beans are finished, here's how you "de-gas" them. Take a good pinch of baking soda, toss in the pot and stir quickly. You will never again have to worry about beans causing gas. Then add one tablespoon salt, taste juice. If not salty enough, add a little more to taste.
NOW IT GETS FUN! You're going to need 2 sauce pans for this step.
I use one pan for my chili beans and one for the beans I'm going to refry later.
FOR CHILI BEANS: With a ladle, dip some beans with the juice in one pan. Try to avoid getting the ham pieces in this pan. You're going to want quite a bit of chili powder and ground cumin in this pot. I prefer heavy on both spices. Then add several minced garlic cloves. Experiment with the spices until you get a good chili sauce in this pot.
FOR THE BEANS TO BE REFRIED LATER: With a ladle, dip some beans with a LITTLE juice into the pan. Add a little ground cumin.
REMOVE ALL PANS FROM HEAT AND LET COOL BEFORE NEXT STEP.
In sandwich size ZIP LOCK bags add enough chili beans for a pot of chili
In sandwich size ZIP LOCK bags add enough beans for however many you'll use for refried beans.
In quart size ZIP LOCK bags add enough ham and beans for a meal. If you only need single servings of ham and beans, you can use the sandwich size bag.
Now freeze all bags of beans and you're good to go for awhile.
LADLE ALL OF THE BAGS WITH A MAGIC MARKER. IT'S AMAZING HOW MUCH THEY LOOK ALIKE WHEN THEY'RE FROZEN.
REFRIED BEANS: Thaw beans. Add 2 tablespoons lard to a small skillet and heat until hot. Add beans without the liquid, mashing with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon while beans are frying. When beans are mashed and fried, add some of the bean liquid until the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add a little chili powder and garlic. Add salt a pinch at a time until salty enough because refried beans take a little more salt than fixed other ways.