Traditional Southern cooks (and others in many countries) take a dim view of the crisp school of vegetable cookery. To properly infuse beans with requisite pork richness, simmering must be lengthy—in the neighborhood of two hours. Obviously, these beans do not have the verve of bright green vegetables. But what they do have is smoky, sweet, and salty savors that mellow and mingle in a slurpy, unctuous, noodly soft tangle. (They also provide intense “pot likker” for soup; or cook cubed potatoes in it and serve with the beans.)
My compromise version is not for Southerners (who need no Yankee recipes for beans), but for the food-curious who might want to sample an old favorite in a new way. Non-authentic elements include: shorter cooking time, crisped bacon pieces (lardons) instead of soft salt pork, chillis, and a dash of sherry vinegar.
If you garden or shop at farmers’ markets, this is a good recipe for big, sturdy beans of any variety or color (or several): green or yellow Romanos, purple pole beans, Dragon Tongue, Tongue of Fire. For chillis, most will suit, but Chipotles (which are smoked Jalapeños) are particularly tasty. Sherry vinegar is nice and sprightly, but others will do fine.