1 slice of bacon, or 1 thin slice of country ham, cut into small cubes
Salt to taste, if desired
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Put the bones in a kettle and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer 1 minute. Drain and run under cold water until chilled. Put the bones in a clean kettle and add about 12cups of cold water. Bring to the boil, partly cover, and cook for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, cut off and discard the stem ends of the okra. Cut the pods crosswise into ½-inch lengths. There should be about 5cups. Set aside.
Cut away and discard the cores of the tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes. There should be about 3cups. Set aside.
Peel and finely chop the onions. There should be about 2cups.
When the beef has cooked about 2 hours, strain the liquid and reserve the bones. There should be about 8cups of liquid. Put the liquid in a kettle and add the okra, tomatoes, onions, and bacon or ham. Add the bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to the boil and cook 2 hours longer.
Meanwhile, cut away any meat from the bones and cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Discard the bones. Add the meat to the soup. Heat thoroughly and serve piping hot.