Preparation / Directions:
Empty the beans into a 6-quart saucepan. Run water over them, washing them with your hands and picking out any stones or bad beans. Drain and repeat until the water runs clear and has no sand in it.
Add water to the pot to cover the beans by about 4 inches. Place on a large burner and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly, boil gently for 3 minutes, remove from burner and cover. Let the covered pot sit, unopened, for an hour. Drain and reserve the beans, discarding the juice.
Place the ham pieces, 2 cups of water, the chopped vegetables and seasonings in a 12-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven. Stir well, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is fork tender, about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the meat from the pan and tear it into small pieces. Set it aside. (If using ham hocks, cover with water to cook. The beans will have to cook down longer to reach their normal consistency. You may not need to add any extra water.) Add the drained beans and 2 cups water to the pan with the ham broth and vegetables. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the sliced sausage and 2 cups more water if the beans are not covered with liquid and continue simmering until the beans start breaking into pieces, about 35 more minutes, stirring often to the bottom of the pan.
If the beans start to scorch, do not stir. Instead, immediately remove them from the heat and transfer them to another pot without scraping any scorched beans into the mixture. Add the ham pieces or hocks and cook about 10 minutes more, stirring often. Do not let the mixture get dried out like refried beans, but keep it thicker than cream soup.
To serve, mound 1/2 cup cooked rice in a bowl and cover with beans, ham and sausage pieces. Serves 15 to 20 as a side dish.
* Adapted from Chef Paul's, page 190 * The original recipe had approximately the same amount of vegetables, ham and spices as above, but had just one pound of beans. I added one extra pound of sausage and 2 extra pounds of beans, but kept everything else the same. The original recipe had proportionally much more cayenne pepper and Tabasco sauce. Normally I would make this a lot spicier than this, but not as spicy as the original recip