Spread beans out on a large plate or other surface. Remove/discard debris.
Pour beans into a colander. Rinse well.
Pour rinsed beans into a large lidded container. Cover with water. Top with lid. Place in fridge. Soak 4-8 hours for tender/firm beans. Soak overnight for very soft beans. Soaking required to remove gas.
Drain soak water. Rinse thoroughly.
Place beans in large saucepan or dutch oven. Add chopped ham pieces. Cover with water.
Simmer over low-medium heat WITHOUT LID. Watch closely. Foam will form minutes after simmering. Skim off. If it is not removed, it will “disappear” in the beans. See cooking notes for more info.
Cover with lid. Simmer over low-medium heat until desired tenderness. Lightly stir to prevent breakage. Add more water if necessary to reach desired tenderness.
After reaching desired tenderness, turn off heat.
Cook ground beef (or ground turkey) and onions together. Drain after meat is thoroughly cooked. Add to cooked beans.
Add one can of diced tomatoes to cooked beans. If more soup is preferred, add second can (14.5 ounces) of diced tomatoes.
Chili powder can be very strong. Start with 1 teaspoon.
Add Liquid Smoke, 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning, salt to taste, and ground black pepper to taste.
After lightly stirring together, taste a “cooled” sample of chili. If desired, add 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning or whatever is preferred until satisfied with taste.
Serve hot. Garnish with chopped/cooked hotdogs and shredded cheddar cheese if desired (optional).
Shortly after beans start boiling, white foam will form on top. This is phytic acid, a toxin that irritates the stomach in most people. I always skim off.
How to Cook Dried Beans is an informative article from Bon Appetit.