There is not one single method of cooking beans. The most basic method is to simmer the pot until the beans are soft. Soaking can speed up the process, and vegetables or stock will make them more flavorful. It’s really that simple!
Check beans for small debris and rinse in cool, fresh water. Cover beans with two inches of water and soak for 4-6 hours. In a large pot, sauté finely chopped onion, celery, carrot and garlic (or any combination you prefer) in olive oil until soft. Add beans and water, and make sure beans are covered by at least one inch of water. Bring to a hard boil for five minutes and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Once soft, add salt. Beans can take from one to three hours to cook. Slow and low is best.
More Fun Bean Facts
Do not add acids (tomatoes, vinegar, salt) or sugars until the beans are just tender, as they can toughen the beans. You can replace some of the cooking water with beer or stock. Bay leaves are nice, as well as ham bones or smoked turkey legs. But in general, fresh, heirloom beans need little help.