Bette Davis’ Baked Beans were the first thing I ever made for the Silver Screen Suppers project way back in May 2006.  I was living on a houseboat with a tabletop oven that had to be turned on with a pair of pliers feeling very sorry for myself.

Boat kitchen – cooker back left near the window

I’d decided to start cooking some of the movie star recipes I’d been collecting for several years to cheer myself up.  My mad archive of recipes was kicked off by the purchase of this…

and now I cannot move in my flat for the celebrity related recipe books.

I have no idea why, out of the many movie star favourites I had already accumulated at this point, I chose this particular dish.  I said to Mr. R recently, “It was such a weird thing to cook first.”  To which Mr. R’s response was, “Yeah, because you never cook anything weird.”  FAIR ENOUGH!

Julie Christie’s Holiday Salad anyone?

If you are reading this and are contemplating starting a blog I say DO IT, DO IT, DO IT.  I can vividly remember the day I made Bette’s Beans almost 13  years ago, but probably mostly because I recorded the whole experience in a blog post…

The inagural Silver Screen Suppers meal took place at Heather’s penthouse flat in W1.  It was raining cats and dogs, and we had sherry and Walnut Whips.

After a massive bean feast I nutted down with Dave and 15 minutes after going to bed Heather poked her head around the door and reported that it was “blowing a gale” in her bedroom.  Haha!  When I told her I was going to make this dish again for the Great Bear Project she emailed me saying, “Wrap up warm, there is windy weather predicted for Muswell Hill this weekend.”

SO MUCH WATER has passed under the bridge in 13 years, but I so love the fact I have my online diary to remind me of all the fun I have had making movie star fodder.

Do not delay.  Start your blog today!

Back in 2006 nobody in England knew what fat salt pork was, certainly not me as I could not cook AT ALL back then.  We decided to just bung some bog standard British bacon on top of the beans.  We knew nothing about trad methods for making Boston baked beans!  Now I understand a lot more about cooking so I went all domestic goddess for this PROPER attempt at Bette’s beans and made my own salt pork from some slices of pig belly.  Here it is prepped up and ready to go in the fridge for a few days…

I used this recipe and it was GOOD.

I am always happy to buy a new piece of kitchen equipment that I will probably only ever use once, so I bought a pot that the seller on eBay said was SPECIFICALLY for Boston Baked Beans.

I just love it.  Here is my beany dish with the pork belly distributed throughout, about to go in the oven.  If I make this again, and I am sure I will, I’ll get a big SLAB of pork belly to lay over the top.

Here’s what the beans looked like when they came out.

I removed all the pork belly and pulled off all the porky bits…

then mixed them all through the beans.

I made them on a Saturday and resisted trying them, even though they smelled divine.  On Sunday morning I reheated them and packed some up in a thermos and off me and Mr R. went to Mill Hill East.

We had a lot of fun with Bette’s Beans at Mill Hill East.  I’d never been to this station before and always wondered to myself, who goes there?  Who lives there?  Because it’s a funny little spur off the Northern Line.  I don’t know how Bette would feel, not being the centre of everything like Tottenham Court Road…

But it was a very cute station.

First spoonful – DELICIOUS!

Mr. R liked them too…

Mr R. took some nice photos of the station architecture…

and here are his factoids…

Mr. Rathbone’s Station Factoids

Although it is now the terminus of a shorter line, when it first opened in 1867 Mill Hill East was originally the first stop on a slightly longer branch between Finchley Central and Edgware. The line is single track and has only ever operated as a ‘shuttle service’. 
Originally part of the partially abandoned ‘Northern Heights’ electrification project, whereby existing Great Northern railway branches were converted to London Underground lines, this small stub survived as it provided a service to the nearby Inglis Barracks during WW2 and also the disused Tube depot at Aldenham that was being used to build Halifax bombers at the time.
The station holds the dubious distinction of being the least used of all the stations on the Underground, but also passes over one of the most spectacular viaducts on the entire network.

GORGEOUS!  Now here’s Bette’s now legendary (to me) recipe.  Watch out for high winds!

Bette Davis’ Boston Baked Beans

1 quart pea beans (in the UK the best bean to go for is the haricot – about 900g)

½ pound/225g fat salt pork

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup/160g molasses

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup/235ml boiling water

1st step: Wash beans and allow them to soak overnight in cold water to cover.  2nd step: In the morning, drain and cover with fresh water.  Cook slowly – just below the boiling point – until skins will burst. (This is determined by taking a few beans on a spoon and blowing on them gently.  When skins of these beans will break and curl back then the rest of the beans are sufficiently cooked.)  3rd step: Fill bean pot with cooked beans.  Some people also like to add a small onion, minced fine, at this point.  Pour boiling water over the salt pork, scrape the rind until it is white, then score deeply at half-inch intervals.  Press pork down into beans so that only the rind is exposed.  Combine salt, molasses, and mustard.  Add the boiling water.  Pour this mixture over the beans and add enough water so that beans are just covered.  Cover bean pot tightly and bake beans in slow oven (300 degrees F / 150 degrees C) for eight hours.  If necessary, add a little water (boiling) during the baking period so that the beans will not get too dry.  Uncover pot during last hour to brown the pork.  Serve in the pot in which they were cooked.

Next stop on the Great Bear Project will be….

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