adapted from Deep South Dish
1 ham bone with ham cut off in pieces, or some diced ham, or ham hocks
1 package (14 ounces) Hillshire Farms Beef Sausage
1 pound dried small red beans (store brands were all that I could find)
2 tablespoon oil, or bacon grease
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
2-3 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon, or more of cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste
salt if needed (you'll get lots of salt from the meat)
2 quarts, or more water
1. Sort through the beans and remove any dirt or debris. Place in a soup pot and rinse with water. Drain. Add fresh water to the pot and bring the beans to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let set for 1 hour. Drain well.
2. In the soup pot, heat the oil or bacon grease over medium high heat. Add the diced onions, bell pepper, and celery to the pot. Stir and cook until softened. Add the sausage and ham, if using and stir and brown lightly. Stir in the garlic, basil, thyme, cayenne and black pepper. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the drained beans and the water to the pot with the vegetable meat mixture. Add in the ham bone and simmer until done, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, or until beans are tender. I added the cooked ham the last 30 minutes of cooking. Taste, and add salt if needed. When I used the ham bone and smoked sausage, I did not need any additional salt. Serve over hot cooked rice and a pan of hot, crusty cornbread fresh from the oven. Enjoy!
NOTE: You need to make sure beans do not get too dry while cooking. Add more water if necessary.
The first time I made this, I used less water, but my family wanted more broth, so, this time I have more broth to make them happy.