Rinse beans. In a large saucepan combine beans and 3 cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Drain beans and return to saucepan. Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and 3 cups fresh water. Add ham hocks. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until beans are tender, adding more water, if necessary, and stirring occasionally.
Remove ham hocks; cool slightly. Remove meat from ham hocks; chop meat and set aside. Discard bay leaf. In a medium skillet cook sausage over medium heat about 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir chopped meat, cooked sausage, and salt into beans. Cover and cook about 5 minutes more or until heated through.
Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 6 main-dish servings.