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The relationship status between climate change and food (and the tools used to cook it) is, as they say, “complicated.” Between cultivation, transportation, processing, storage, and preparation (i.e. cooking), the environmental impact of a particular ingredient depends on many variables, and our ever-changing climate affects the agricultural potential for where and how to grow the ingredient.

The good news is, it’s easy to point to one ingredient that stands above the fray in terms of its sustainability: beans. For myriad reasons, legumes, especially heirloom varieties, are the most eco-friendly foods you can cook. On the agricultural level, they require far less water and fertilizer than many crops (including corn), and release nitrogen into the soil, which enriches it for future plantings. And according to a recent study published in the journal Climatic Change, replacing beef with beans as a primary protein source could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as free up 42 percent of cropland in the United States.

We’re big bean heads here at Field Company, not only because beans are healthy and sustainable, but also because cast iron is an excellent tool for cooking many bean-based recipes, including our creamy Dutch oven-braised beans. And in the recipe below, we’re giving you another excuse to break out your Field Skillet: luscious refried beans, which make an excellent addition to tacos, burritos, and other Mexican recipes, or simply served with a stack of homemade tortillas.

Photo: Lauren V. Allen

Field Notes:

1.

We highly recommend sourcing heirloom beans for this recipe—and all of your bean-based cooking. Our favorite online sources are Rancho Gordo, Purcell Mountain Farms, North Bay Trading Co., and https://www.zursunbeans.com/.

2.

Our refried beans recipe doesn’t require any pre-soaking of the beans, but you can speed up cooking time if you soak your beans in cold water overnight before cooking them.

Recipe: Cast Iron Refried Beans

Yield: about 4 cups

Instructions

1.

In a No.8 Dutch Oven or large saucepan, cover the beans with 3 inches of water. Cut the onion in half and add half to the pot. Finely chop the other half and set aside. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and salt to the water.

2.

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are very tender, about 2 hours. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

3.

In a Field No.10 Skillet, heat the lard or bacon fat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and 1 cup of cooking liquid and cook, mashing them with the back of a wooden spoon, until they form a thick, chunky puree, adding more liquid as needed to reach desired texture. Season to taste with salt and transfer to a bowl.

4.

Top the refried beans with crumbled cheese and chopped cilantro and serve.