Moros y Cristianos

2 lbs (5 C) black beans
2 t baking soda
1 pt dry white wine
8 medium yellow onions
3 medium sweet green peppers
1/4 lb dark smoked bacon
1/4 lb salt pork
2 C olive oil
4 whole bay leaves
2 T tarragon white wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
salt and fresh black pepper to taste
2 C boiled white rice
1 sweet red onion

The day before : In a 6 quart soup pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile wash and pick over the beans in a colander. When the water is boiling rapidly, dribble in the beans, handful by handful, so the water does not stop boiling. When all the beans are in, keep the water bubbling hard for 4 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the beans to soak. After 1 hour, stir in the baking soda. Soak overnight (or at least 3 hours if in a hurry).

On the day : Drain and wash the beans, then put them in a 6 quart earthenware pot. Pour in the wine, and add enough cold water to just cover the beans. Cover the pot and place it in the oven, set at 300. Peel and chop the onions, core and chop the green peppers, and cut the bacon and salt pork into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the chopped ingredients and saute strongly until lightly browned. Add this mixture to the pot of beans, stirring thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the bay leaves, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Put the pot back in the oven and adjust the temperature so that the beans simmer gently. Bake 6 hours or more, stirring and tasting occasionally. We like this best when all ingrdients except the beans have merged into an indistinguishable melange. Meanwhile, prepare 2 C boiled white rice and the finely chopped red onion as a garnish.

This recipe, which serves 4 people several times, is time-consuming but more than worth the trouble. In fact, these are the best beans I've ever tasted. They're even better the following day after some additional cooking, and also keep well in the freezer. The name of the dish is a throwback to the Muslim occupation of Spain, and constant wars between the Moors and the Christians.

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