Every family has its favorite chulent (cholent, hamim, etc.), or long cooking sabbath lunch dish. This recipe is from my son-in-law, Ernest Mandel. Ernest and my daughter Rachel share all the cooking and baking to create a beautiful Shabbat at the end of their long intense weeks - Ernest is a doctor and Rachel is a lawyer. Ernest makes this chulent in a crock pot, but I use a heavy enameled pot on our blech.
Ernest does not soak the beans, but I like the beans to be softer, so I do soak them the previous night, rinsing them on Friday morning. Put the beans, barley, potatoes, onions, and meat into the slow cooker pot (or the heavy enameled pot, if preparing on the blech). Mix all the seasonings and about 2 cups of water in a small bowl and pour over the bean and meat mixture. Fill the pot to the level of the food. It's o.k. if some of the pieces stick out slightly; don't overfill the pot with ingredients above or with too much water - it will be a mess. Slowly cook the mixture on low from Friday afternoon - the total cooking time can be from 22 to 26 hours before serving. You'll need to experiment with your slow cooker or blech. I like to begin the cooking on high until the water starts to boil. Then I turn it down to a bare simmer. Just before Shabbat, I put the pot on the blech, and by then the mixture is already substantially cooked. With the crock pot you need to insure that the mixture does not sit for too long at too low a temperature. This varies so much from brand to brand that I cannot give any general instructions. Ernest and Rachel have found that crock pot bags help cut down enormously on cleanup time: they use two, one for the ingredients in the pot, and a second to enclose the lid.