Slow Cooker Black Beans

Confession time. I absolutely HATED beans growing up.  I also hated Salmon Croquettes, made with canned salmon.  They were my two least favorite meals, and unfortunately, two of my parents favorite meals. I understand they were both economical, but I much preferred sausage pizza from Godfather’s.  But buying pizza every night was neither economical nor healthy, so sometimes beans it was.

Usually we had hot water cornbread or rice with them, which was never a problem for this carb lover, but I could rarely get away with just eating rice and cornbread for dinner.  So I dutifully ate my portion of beans until I could get to the rice and cornbread I liked.  Such a mini-martyr.

When I got older and began cooking for myself, beans were rarely on the menu.  Maybe I was making up for all the times I ate beans and didn’t want to.  But a funny thing happened.  My palate changed and I began revisiting things I didn’t like before only to find that I actually did like them.  Salmon was good (although I am still not a fan of canned salmon), brussels sprouts were pretty tasty, and yes…beans were actually delicious.

Now I make beans quite often and miracle of miracles, my kids love them too.  Yes, they are economical, but more importantly, downright tasty.  I firmly stand by the theory that no matter what the cost of food, it should always be as delicious as possible.  These beans certainly fit that theory and they are also easy to prepare because the slow cooker does the work for you.  All you need is about 15 minutes prep time and you’re done. Dear beans, I was such a hater, but now I’ve got much love for you.  Maybe this recipe will convert the bean haters in your life.  Here’s how to make them:

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Slow Cooker Black Beans

2 c. dried black beans, sorted through for pebbles or funny-looking beans (I used Ham Beens brand)

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 packets Goya Sazon seasoning (use the cilantro y achiote variety)

1/2 packet black bean seasoning, included with the dried beans

4 c. chicken broth or stock ( I used Better Than Boullion Chicken Base)

1 small smoked ham hock

Cracked black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

Various toppings–chopped tomato, sour cream mixed with a little lemon juice and salt, green onion, cilantro, shredded cheese, diced avocado, diced jalapeño, etc.

Rice or cornbread for serving

Place beans, onions, peppers, garlic, seasoning packets, and broth in the slow cooker.  Stir briefly to combine.  Add ham hock and cracked black pepper.  Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.  If you need it a bit faster, cook on high for 2 hours, then switch to low for 4 hours.  These beans are quite sturdy, so add an hour to the cooking time if you like your beans really tender.  It is also important NOT to add salt too early.  The broth and seasoning packets have some salt and so does the ham hock.  If you add too much salt in the beginning, it stops the beans from becoming tender.  Taste after the beans are cooked and add salt and pepper to suit your personal tastes.  If you want a vegetarian option, replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth and replace the ham hock with a tablespoon of chopped chipotles in adobo to retain that smokiness without the meat. Now go forth and convert the bean haters in your life, and since the slow cooker does most of the cooking work, you’ll have plenty of time to convince them.

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