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Rinse the beans and check for any foreign particles.
Add the beans to a large pot or dutch oven. Add the ham hock, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a low boil, and cook for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are tender to your liking. Add water to keep the beans just covered. Stir less frequently to allow the beans to stay intact, or stir more often to create a thick, rich broth. Be sure to see the blog post for details. Add the pepper and additional salt to taste. If desired, remove the hock, shred the meat, and return it to the pot.
Place beans, water, ham hock, salt and pepper in a 6 quart slow cooker and cover. Cook on high for 5 hours (or low for 7 to 8 hours) or until the beans are tender to your liking. Stir well and adjust seasoning to your taste. If needed, add hot water to the beans to keep them covered as to not drop the temperature as they cook. If desired, remove the hock, shred the meat, and return it to the slow cooker.