Spread beans out on a large plate or other surface. Remove/discard debris.
Pour beans into a colander. Rinse thoroughly.
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 removes unpleasant gas.
Drain soak water. Rinse thoroughly.
Place beans in large saucepan or dutch oven. Cover with water.
Simmer over low-medium heat WITHOUT LID. Watch closely. Foam will form minutes after simmering. Skim off. If not removed, foam will “disappear” in beans. See cooking notes for more info.
Add chopped onions and all of the chopped smoked sausage. Follow next step if adding 1/2 of sausage. 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.
OPTIONAL: While beans are simmering, place remaining half of chopped smoked sausage in a lightly greased skillet. Cook sausage on both sides until edges are crispy. Turn off heat. Wipe off oil with a paper towel. Add to soup before serving.
After beans reach desired tenderness, add diced tomatoes, chili powder, lemon juice, and minced garlic (if using). If desired, use 1-1/2 teaspoons of cumin seeds or cumin powder instead of minced garlic.
Stir together ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat. Immediately add ham seasoning (packaged with dry beans). Season with salt and black pepper as preferred. Stir gently until well combined.
Serve hot. Excellent with crusty cornbread.
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.