Place beans in heavy large Dutch oven. Add enough water to cover by 3 inches. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.
In a lightly oiled skillet or pan, heat all 8 slices of Benevolent Bacon™ for 2 to 3 minutes on each side (bacon should not be too crispy), pull from skillet when still slightly ‘limp’ then chop into ½” pieces and set aside.
Return beans to Dutch oven after sitting for 1 hour. Add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add all remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until beans are tender and liquid thickens, stirring frequently, about 3 hours.
Discard bay leaf. Season beans with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)
Ladle into bowls and serve as is or over rice, with or without cornbread.