Soak beans in water OVERNIGHT before preparing soup. (You could also start them very early in the morning to be ready to cook late afternoon.) To soak, place beans in a bowl, and cover with about three inches of water. After an 8+ hour soak, drain the beans, and sort through them looking for any foreign materials (like rocks).
In a large stockpot, add soaked beans, carrots, celery, ham, broth, garlic, and salt-free seasoning. Add additional water (up to 2 cups) to make sure beans are covered by about an inch of water.
Bring pot o’ beans to a boil. Boil for a few minutes, and then reduce heat to a fast simmer. Cover, and cook for at least 2 1/2 hours, or until beans are as tender as you’d like.
If desired, use a potato masher or heavy wooden spoon to smash some of the beans. This will make a creamier soup, but it’s optional. You can also leave the beans whole in broth if preferred. Simmer about 15 minutes longer after mashing.
Season the soup with salt and hot sauce to taste. Serve with cornbread and hot sauce on the side.
Allow at least three hours cook time. Soup can be kept warm over low heat until ready to serve. Reheats well too if made ahead!
If you’d like to make this in a slow cooker, add all ingredients as described above, and cook on low at least 12 hours or high at least 6 hours.