Pinto Beans + Smoked Ham Hock...how do you cook them in a slow cooker?
I find putting salt in early (beyond what salt is already in the ham hocks) makes the beans tough and hard. I wait till the beans are almost completely cooked before adding salt. I also like to add a little acid of some sort. Lime juice usually, but molassas if you are going for more of a baked bean works well too. I find that the acid makes the beans more tender as well.
I LOVE pink pinto beans done in the slow cooker, I make them often. I use dried beans, soak them overnigt the night before and start them early in the morning (before 9am) if you want them that evening for dinner.
I like to use either a couple of ham hocks or pork butt (bone in). Season the bottom of the crockpot well. I use about a 2 tablespoons of olive oil,half of a large white onion, half of a serrano chili, 2T each of colorado and california powdered chili, 1-2 T of salt and pepper, red pepper, 1T garlic powder,4 cloves fresh garlic, and 1 Tonion salt. I like to use chicken broth and sometimes a boullion cube or Knorrs chicken boullion. Pour the beans and soaking water in the pot, add some broth 2 cans or a quart of homemade. Then a large tomato chopped, and red bell pepper, 2 celery stalks chopped. The same seasonings on top, except I'll add Mexican oregano. 2 T rubbed between my palms to make if fine. Then add salt and pepper again. I tend to overseason beans, they can handle it. No bland beans for me!
I know some people say don't salt the beans. I don't have any problems with tough beans when using a slow cooker. It could be different on the stove top, I don't care to use that for beans though. I love the slow cooker, I think it produces the creamiest beans.
When the beans are just about ready, pull out the ham hock or pork, clean it up (remove fat and gristle) and shred the meat, put it back into the pot. Mash the beans with a potato masher or use the immersion blender. I keep some of the beans intact. Don't puree the beans.
Add a handfull of chopped cilantro and stir it in. Serve more fresh with the beans, sour cream, red onion, avocado, cheese..whatever you like. Of course hot sauce and a great corn bread or tortillas is nice too.
Soak them overnight in cold water, drain in the morning. Cover with fresh water in the slow-cooker so there's at least two inches of water over the beans -- three to be safe. Put in the ham hock, a couple bay leaves, a bunch of fresh pepper, some chopped carrots and onions (if you want; if not, don't bother. And you can saute them first). Cover, then put a towel over the lid, set it to low (or "auto" if you have that setting), and cook for 8-10 hours. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning.
Sometimes I add crushed red pepper or a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, but that's my basic ham-beans recipe. Serve with Southern-style (i.e. not sweet) corn bread, obviously. Red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar on the side.
Now you've got me craving beans!