Preparation / Directions:
Do not soak the beans overnight (Mexican cooks don't). Instead, place all ingredients in a deep pot, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow the beans to sit for an hour.
Return the beans to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the beans are tender (to test, remove one bean from the pot, and blow on it. If the skin splits, they're done).
Cooking time will depend on the type of bean used (pintos cook fairly quickly, black beans take close to forever), the age of the bean, and the mineral content of your water.
Salt to taste. Never salt beans at the beginning of the cooking process, as the salt will toughen them and they will take longer to cook.
In a large shallow pan, preferably a black iron frying pan, melt 3 Tbsp. of lard or drippings. When the lard is melted, ladle about a cup of beans, including some of the cooking liquid, into the fat. Use a potato masher to mash the beans into a puree. Continue adding beans and liquid, along with more fat as needed, and mashing until all beans have been used.
The consistency of this dish varies with personal preference. Some cooks like a very smooth, almost liquid puree, while other prefer a stiffer mixture with some pieces of bean remaining. The end result should be glossy, well flavored from the fat, and very rich tasting.
The beans may be served plain, used as a filling for warm tortillas, or garnished with shredded cheese.
A bean and cheese taco (refried beans, shredded cheese in a fresh tortilla) is one of my favorite things to have for breakfast. They are also good served as an accompaniment for scrambled eggs.
NOTE: Some Mexican recipes for beans call for a sprig of Epasote (ep- puh-ZOH-tay) to be cooked with the beans. This is an herb/weed known as Pigweed in the U.S. It doesn't dry well, but it is very easy to grow (U.S. farmers consider it a pest). If you can get a hold of a plant, it's worth cultivating, as it adds a nice, if indefinable flavor to the bean pot. It is not common in Tex-Mex beans, however, so if you encounter it in a recipe, feel free to omit