Cuban Black Beans
1½ green bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
10 garlic cloves, separated
1 pound dried black beans, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
1 smoked ham hock
5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
¼ cup olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Coarsely chop one green pepper and smash and peel 4 garlic cloves. In a large pot, combine the green pepper, garlic, beans, ham hock, and 1 tablespoon salt. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer until the beans are tender, about an hour or more.
Make the Sofrito: Cut the remaining half of the green pepper into small dice. Finely mince the remaining garlic. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until it starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining green pepper and onion, cook until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook for another minute. Pour in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
Once the beans are tender, remove the ham hock and set it aside to cool. Pull the meat from the ham hock, leaving behind any sinew or gristle, and chop the meat into ½-inch pieces. Return the chopped ham to the bean pot. Add the sofrito and brown sugar to the beans, stirring well to combine. Bring the beans to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, skimming any foam from the top.
Taste for salt and adjust if needed. Serve with white rice.