Trim fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit into a 3 1/2-, 4-, 5-, or 6-quart electric crockery cooker. In a large skillet cook meat in hot oil until evenly brown on all sides. Transfer meat to cooker.
Sprinkle tapioca, dried thyme (if using), and black pepper over meat. Add dried cherries and onion. Pour apple juice over all. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours.
To serve, transfer meat to a serving platter. Cover and keep warm. Skim fat from cooking liquid. If using, stir fresh thyme into liquid. Serve the meat and cooking liquid with rice. Makes 8 servings.