Mrs. Ortbal's Ham and Beans

When I was a kid my best friend's mother would often make Ham and Beans for dinner. This quickly became one of my favorite meals, to the point where I would plead with her to make it any time I happened to be there.

The last time I saw her, many years later and shortly before she passed away at age 75, she gave me a mason jar of ham and beans to take home with me. She also gave me her recipe. For some reason I've never been able to quite duplicate the wonderful flavor of her simple dish, but I'll keep trying until I get it perfect.

Wash beans thoroughly and place in a large pan. Cover with water, about 1 inch over the top of the beans.

Bring water to a boil and after about 5 minutes add baking soda.

Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water.

Add ham, bay leaves and onions. Add enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender, about 2-3 hours.