Canned beans may be convenient, but these dried beans taste so much better. Black beans are so easy to make from scratch, as long as you think ahead and soak your beans for a... few hours (or overnight, preferably) before cooking. Cooked beans also freeze well and can be ready whenever you want them.
Rinse the beans under the tap. Put them into a bowl large enough to hold them and 4 cups of water. Cover with a plate or towel and leave to soak overnight. They should double in size.
Drain the soaked beans, rinse, and put them into a heavy pot with onion and bay leaf. Add enough water just to cover the beans, then drizzle olive oil.
Bring the beans to a boil. Remove any scum that forms. Boil for 10 minutes, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer until the beans are tender but not falling apart, 1 to 1½ hours depending on the age of the beans.
Remove the onion and bay leaf. Add the sea salt. Use the beans right away or store them in the fridge or freezer.
Salt your beans at the end of cooking only. They will stay hard if you add salt at the beginning.
If you forget to soak your beans, here’s a quick method to speed up the soaking: Rinse the beans, and add to a pan with four cups of water. Boil over high heat, immediately cover, turn off heat, and leave to rest for an hour. Start at Step 2 in the above recipe.