Wash the beans. Cover with water; add 2 tablespoons salt. Soak overnight.
The next day, drain the beans and combine with 2 quarts water in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the ham and boil for 1-½ to 3 hours, or until the beans are fully cooked and tender. Add the onions, celery, tomatoes, red pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. Serve hot.
The parishioners of the Church of the Epiphany in Southbury, Connecticut, routinely package the dried (bean) part of this recipe in 2-cup plastic-bag portions and sell it at church activities – along with the recipe, of course. This is a very good soup that’s also very simple to make, and it can easily be doubled and frozen. Feel free to experiment with different combinations of beans, but the folks in Southbury recommend always including black-eyed peas for good luck.