1 pound small red beans (They are dried beans. Not every grocery carries them, but I find them at my local Kroger.)
1/4 pound bacon, chopped fine (about 4 slices)
1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sweet paprika (I have used regular paprika in the past too with good results)
2 bay leaves
scant 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (use more if you want more spice)
Ground black pepper
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 cups water
1 pkg smoked sausages (e.g., kielbasa. I used smoked turkey sausage. 13 oz. package), halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Rice, with which to serve
Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water and add beans. Soak at room temp overnight (8-24 hours). Drain and rinse well. I rarely remember to do this the night before, so I usually employ the quick soak method: Combine salt, water, and beans in large pan and bring to a full boil. Boil 2 minutes and then remove from heat and cover for one hour. Drain and rinse well.
Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until browned and almost fully rendered, stirring occasionally (6-8 minutes).
Add in onion, green pepper, and celery, cooking until vegetables are softened (another 6-8 minutes). Stir frequently to prevent sticking/burning.
Add in garlic, thyme, paprika, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cook about 30 seconds. Add in beans, broth, and water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.
Then reduce heat and simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until beans are just soft and liquid begins to thicken, about 1 hour. Note: be sure your simmer is relatively vigorous...this allows the starch to release from the beans and thicken the sauce. The first time I made this, my simmer was too low and this step took much longer.
Stir in sausage and red wine vinegar.
Cook until liquid is thick and beans are fully tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional red wine vinegar.
Remove from heat and let cool. Portion out into containers suitable for freezing. One batch makes about 8 one-cup servings, so for our group, I split one batch for 2 families. Label and freeze.
To serve, thaw and reheat. Serve over rice (we like brown rice), and optional hot sauce.
adapted from America's Test Kitchen