Soak legumes overnight (10-12 hours) in cold water. Add sufficient filtered water to cover the surface by two inches in a large pot or bowl (they absorb water like mad and expand). Rinse and drain prior to heating.
After adding the garlic, onion, and bay leaves to the beans in a large saucepan, add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, adding additional water as necessary to keep the vegetables submerged, until tender. Eliminate froth that atops the substance. Cook beans with the lid removed for firmer results, and partially covered for softer, more mushier beans.
Check for doneness approximately one hour later. When they are nearly done (al dente), season with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, or to taste, and boil for an additional minute (DO NOT DRAIN).