Rinse the beans thoroughly, then place them in a large pot with the bacon. Pour water over the top. Use enough water to cover the beans by 1 or 2 inches. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 2-3 hours.
If the liquid seems to evaporate too quickly, add more water during the cooking process.
The beans are done when they're tender, without much bite.
Add in the salt and pepper. Stir and taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary. Add in other seasonings as desired.
Serve in a bowl with any or all of the optional garnishes. This is great served with some cornbread, too!