PLACE beans in in a large soup pot with an accompanying lid; COVER beans with 2 inches cold water; BRING to a boil (uncovered); BOIL 2 minutes.
DRAIN beans; RINSE well with running cold water.
RETURN beans to pot; COVER beans with cold water again; BRING to boiling again for 2 minutes uncovered; DRAIN in colander; RINSE well with running cold water; ALLOW beans to drain until needed.
IN the same large heavy pot over medium heat, add the bacon fat until sizzling; ADD ham shanks and cook, turning, until evenly seared, about 7 minutes; REMOVE shanks with tongs; SET aside.
ADD onions; COOK, stirring, for 5 minutes; ADD garlic and drained beans; COOK for just one minute, stirring.
POUR in 7 cups cold water; STIR in the remaining seasonings except the pickled pepper brine.
BRING mixture to full boiling for 2 minutes.
REDUCE heat to medium-low (at approximately the "2 1/2" - "2 3/4" numeric stovetop heat setting); SIMMER beans uncovered for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
AFTER 1 1/2 hours check beans (beans should be creamy and the meat should easily fall off of the bones (if desired, continue cooking and stirring uncovered, to desired consistency); CLEAN meat from bone portion of meat (discard bones); SEASON with pickled pepper brine; STIR well and cook 5 additional minutes; RE-SEASON with salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired.