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Place the chickpeas or beans in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 3 inches. Add the 3 tablespoons of salt and stir to dissolve. Let sit at room temperature overnight or for 8 to 10 hours at least.
Drain, rinse and place in a large pot with the remaining 1.5 teaspoons of salt and the remaining ingredients. Cover with water by three inches. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook at a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are cooked through. Note: Add water as need to ensure the beans/chickpeas are completely covered with water the entire time. Also, times will vary considerably depending on the type and age of your beans. It may take more or less than 45 minutes.
Let beans cool in their cooking liquid. Discard thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and onion. Store beans in their cooking liquid for 5 to 7 days in the fridge or up to 3 months in the freezer.