Salt pork is cut from the belly, fatback or pork side of the pig. It can be meaty or consist entirely of fat. Unlike bacon, salt pork is not smoked, but rather is cured by being packed with salt. Over a course of months, the salt penetrates the meat and acts as a preservative. Salt pork is usually found with the ham at the grocery. It comes as a solid slab or pre-sliced. The pre-sliced variety is easier to work with.
Cover the beans with water and soak them overnight after sifting through them to check for small bits of debris that may have gotten mixed in during the harvesting process.
Drain the beans and put them in a pot. Cover with fresh water.
Peel and coarsely chop the onions and the garlic cloves. Add them to the beans in the pot. Add the tsp. of thyme and 6 or 7 twists of fresh pepper from the grinder.
Use a very sharp knife to trim away the rind of the salt pork. The rind is the thick skin that's usually along one side of the piece. Rinse the pork and pat it dry.
Slice the salt pork if it is in a block and then slice the pieces lengthwise. Cut the pieces crosswise to dice them until you have 1/4 cup. How large the pieces are is a matter of personal preference. Add to the beans in the pot.
Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot loosely and let the beans cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add water as necessary.
Check the beans to see if they are done and continue to cook them until they're as tender as you want. This may take 2 hours. Correct the seasoning if necessary by adding more garlic, thyme and pepper.