This recipe for “drunken” beans is yet another dish I grew up with that I’ve adapted to make my own over the years, and it’s one I love to serve year round. These rich, soupy beans are just as good with summertime barbecue as they are on a chilly evening with plenty of warm tortillas alongside. The beans hold beautifully in a crock pot for parties, and I think their flavor only improves over time. Pinto beans are easy to find and work well here, but you can use any smallish pink or red bean – we get beautiful dried heirloom beans at our farmers’ market, so I often use a variety called Vermont Cranberry beans in this dish. I call for canned pickled chiles in this recipe, but if you pickle your own, as I do, you can of course use those instead. —lastnightsdinner
dried Pinto or other small pink/red beans
uncured slab bacon, cut into ¼ to ½ inch cubes
cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
dried Mexican oregano or dried marjoram
canned pickled whole Jalapeño or Serrano chiles, plus 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy brine
Pick over the beans to remove any stones or debris, and place them in a large pot. Add 6 cups of cold tap water, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans stand, undrained, for an hour. (Note: the beans should be fairly tender at this point, though older beans may need more soaking time.)
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, begin browning the bacon over medium heat. When the bacon is nicely browned on all sides and has rendered much of its fat, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened. Add the garlic cloves and oregano or marjoram, rubbing it between your palms to crumble it a bit, and cook until fragrant. Add the beans with their cooking liquid, then add the tomatoes, the beer, the chile(s) and the chile brine.
Return the bacon to the pot and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, partially covered, for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt as needed. Stir in the lime juice just before serving, then ladle into bowls.