Berta's Beans

Folklorist Berta Montero Bascom of Havana used to bring a vat of these beans, expected and appreciated, to any occasion where food was shared. Below is Berta’s family recipe recounted as we cooked them together in her Berkeley kitchen. This is a dish you can and perhaps should make days ahead. Quantities are elastic, and you can halve or expand this recipe without running into trouble. Two pounds of beans will serve 15-20 people depending on what else you’re having.


  • 1 lb Dried Black Turtle Beans, rinsed (not soaked)
  • 1.5 lbs Uncooked Bacon Ends and Pieces
  • 1 1/3 cup Diced Green Pepper
  • 2 1/2 cup Diced Onion
  • 2 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 2 tsp Cumin Seed, smashed
  • 1 tbsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Ground White Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 3 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
  • 3/4 Cup Red Wine
  • 3 1/2- 4 oz Raw Pork Skin
  • 9 Cups Water



  1. Cook the bacon as you would to serve it for breakfast (browned but not crunchy.)
  2. Remove the bacon and chop up the pieces roughly.
  3. Pour off all but 2-3 T of the fat. Add Onion and Green Pepper to the fat and cook until soft (3-5 min.)
  4. Add spices/bay leaves and garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Add Sherry Vinegar and Red wine and cook until reduced by half, scraping any tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the pot as you go.
  6. Add rinsed beans, pork skin and water. Bring to a light boil and cook for 75-90 minutes.
  7. Remove skin at the end (or chop it up if you want to leave it in.)