Photo: Annabelle Breakey; Styling: Robyn Valarik
Prep Time
30 Mins
Soak Time
8 Hours
Slow-cook Time
6 Hours
Makes 9 cups (serves 6)

Reader Jeffrey Lehane of Lone Jack, Missouri, likes his beans blazingly hot: He adds as much as 1/4 cup chipotle chile powder and 4 fresh jalapeño chiles to a batch. We've toned it down a little (and it's still quite spicy), but feel free to follow Lehane's path of fire if you like. Serve with warm cornbread--and a cold bottle of Fat Tire.

How to Make It

Step 1

Sort and rinse beans, put in a large bowl, and add enough water to cover by at least 3 in. Soak overnight.

Step 2

Drain beans and put in a 5- to 6-qt. slow-cooker along with ham hock. Add ale and chicken broth. Beans should be just covered with liquid; add water if needed. Set cooker to low.

Step 3

Toast chile powder and cumin in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Scrape spices into slow-cooker and cover.

Step 4

Cook bacon in same pan until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Drain all but 1 tbsp. drippings from pan. Add onion and jalapeño and cook until onion is lightly browned. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, a few seconds. Crumble bacon and oregano into onion mixture, stir, and add to slow-cooker along with tomatoes. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 6 to 8 hours.

Step 5

Transfer ham hock to a plate and shred meat off the bone with two forks. Meanwhile, turn slow-cooker to high and let beans cook, uncovered, to reduce broth until it's as thick as you like. Season with salt to taste.

Step 6

Serve beans in large, deep bowls topped with shredded ham, green onions, and cilantro.

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