1Rinse the dried beans and pick through to remove any sticks or stones.
2Place the dried beans in a large soup pot, cover with water to a depth of 2 inches over the tops of the beans. Bring to a boil. Turn off the burner, cover, and let rest 1 hour. (Alternatively, follow the pre-soaking directions usually found printed on the bag of beans)
3Drain the beans, discarding the water they boiled in.
4In the now-empty soup pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onion until translucent.
5Add the country ham and saute and addition 2 or 3 minutes.
6Add 4 to 6 cups of water, cover the soup pan, and move to a 300F oven for 2 hours. The beans should be cooked through and soft at this point. If they are still crunchy, continue to cook them. (Alternatively, simmer on top of the stove but check and stir occasionally to be sure the simmer is constant and the beans do not boil dry.)
7Add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, and the herbs. Stir to distribute all ingredients evenly. Cover and return to the oven for 1 additional hour.
8Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt, which may or may not be needed depending on the saltiness of the country ham.