Colonel Fonts’s Black Beans

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We blog about this recipe here.

Colonel Fonts’s Black Beans

Note from Ann: I tend to start with 8 c of water for 1 pound of beans, and gradually add more water if necessary during the cooking process. Thanks to Colonel Fonts’ great-grandson, Lisandro Pérez, for this heirloom Cuban recipe

  • 1 lb. organic black beans
  • 2 large sweet onions, peeled
  • 2 large green bell peppers, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sherry cooking wine
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 8 oz. can of tomato sauce, preferably unsalted
  • 1 12 oz. can of whole red pimientos (or 3 4-oz jars, if you can’t find the canned)
  • 1/3 cup white refined sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt to taste, and very little, if any, pepper

The beans are to be served on day three, with preparations starting on day one (e.g., for
Christmas eve dinner, on the 24th of December, day one is December 22nd ).
Afternoon of day 1: soak the beans
Place the beans in small batches in a colander, rinse them, and pick through them to make sure there are no small stones, soil clumps, or other earthen matter. Place all the beans in a heavy stock pot and pour enough cold water into the pot so that the beans are covered by about four inches of water. The pot should be large enough so that the water and the beans do not exceed two-thirds of the capacity of the pot (I use the 8 qt. All-Clad Stainless-Steel Stock Pot). Slice one of the onions into rings one-quarter inch thick and one of the green peppers into half-inch wide strips and mix in with the beans and water.

Place the covered pot on the kitchen counter (or in the refrigerator) to soak overnight. (I usually check in on the pot before I go to sleep to make sure the beans have not expanded to the point that they need more water to stay covered).

Morning of day 2: cook the beans

Making sure that there are at least two inches of water left covering the beans, place the pot on the stove and bring to a near boil before quickly turning down the heat to a healthy simmer. Add the bay leaves and an initial pinch or two of salt and cover the pot. Simmer for at least three hours. Stir periodically to make sure there is enough water so that the beans are not at risk of sticking to the bottom. If so, add more water.

After the three hours, sample a few of the beans to make sure they have no firmness; they should pretty much dissolve in your mouth. If still firm, continue cooking. There is little danger of overcooking the beans if they have enough water.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the sofrito by peeling the remaining onion, and cut it and the remaining green pepper into large chunks. Place the onion and pepper, the cloves of garlic, and the cup of olive oil into a blender. Blend until the ingredients liquefy into a smooth mixture. Pour the sofrito mixture into a 12-inch wide skillet at medium-low heat. When the sofrito starts to heat, stir it frequently, uncovered. The purpose is to cook the sofrito while reducing its liquid. If the mixture is splattering too vigorously, reduce the heat a bit. After about 45 minutes most of the natural liquid from the onion and pepper will have evaporated and the result will be a thicker sofrito that will want to stick to the pan in a burnt brownish film. This is when the stirring needs to be constant and aggressive to prevent that (a stiff rubber spatula works best), continuing until
the sofrito is close to having a thick puree consistency.

Once the beans are cooked, pour the sofrito slowly into the beans, stirring the beans as you do so to ensure an even mix. The beans will now have a thicker texture, so the heat needs to be reduced to a low simmer, and attention needs to be paid to prevent any sticking to the pot, stirring occasionally. The beans are always cooked covered. After about 20 minutes, to allow the sofrito and the beans to coalesce, add the vinegar, tomato sauce, ½ cup of the sherry cooking wine, the oregano, and the pimientos, diced coarsely, along with the water with which they were packed. Adjust the salt and add ground black pepper, if desired. After allowing enough time for the beans to return to a simmer, add the sugar, stirring it in slowly. Simmer slowly for another 30 minutes and then turn off the heat. Wait until the pot cools down a bit before putting the beans to sleep,
covered, in the refrigerator for the night.

Day 3: heat and serve
About a couple of hours before they are to be served, take the beans out of the refrigerator and wake them up by stirring them a couple of times and splashing on the other ½ cup of the sherry. They are cold, of course, and considerably thicker than they were the day before, so place them on the stove over low heat, stirring them every few minutes to prevent sticking. The beans must be reheated slowly: burnt beans on the bottom will give the entire batch an unpleasant taste.
Serve on individual plates by laying a bed of white non-sticky long-grain rice and ladling a generous serving of the beans on top.

Recipe brought to you by Lisandro Pérez and


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