This is from The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld.
8 c. water
1 lb dried black beans
6 oz bacon, finely chopped (replace with 1/4 c. olive oil for vegetarian version)
1 lg. onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 ribs celery, finely chopped
7 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp ground allspice
3 dried bay leaves
3 large, tart apples such as granny smith, cut into 1/4 inch squares
2 T finely chopped fresh thyme
1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar (I used – and recommend -apple cider vinegar)
2 T maple syrup or dark brown sugar (I used the syrup and recommend it if you have good maple syrup)
1. Beans – bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot. Pour in the beans, remove the pot from heat and let the beans soak for one hour at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Drain and rinse the beans.
2. Simmering the soup – Rinse and dry the soup pot and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, until it renders most of its fat but is not quite crisp. Tilt the pot to remove some of the fat, leaving about 1/4 cup behind. Add the onion, garlic and celery; cook, stirring often, until softened. Add the beans, stock, red pepper flakes, ginger, allspice, and bay leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and gently simmer until the beans are very soft, 90-120 minutes.
3. Finishing the soup – Stir in the apples, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, vinegar and syrup; simmer until the apples are soft but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Taste and add more salt or venegar if needed. If you’d like, garnish with fresh chives or sharp cheddar cheese.
Note – I used my slow-cooker for this. After soaking the beans, I put the beans, onion, garlic, celery, stock, red pepper, ginger, all spice and bay leaves in the cooker for 8 hours on low. When I got home, I cooked my bacon. I got Canadian bacon and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. It was less oily and we liked the bigger pieces. I took the soup from
the crock pot and put it into the soup pot and then added the bacon. Then, I did step 3. The soup was even better with more apple and spice flavor the next day, so if I did it in a slow cooker again I might add all but the apples into the cooker.