January 7, 2011

Homemade Boston Brown Bread

Fish was on the menu every Friday night while I was growing up in New England; the middle daughter in a Catholic family. We could count on frozen fish sticks; cod; swordfish; and fried smelt, which was one of my favorites.

Saturday dinners were usually Boston Baked Beans that my mom cooked in the oven all day, which included molasses and a big chunk of Salt Pork. She served them right out of the bean pot, with hot Brown Bread. 
My Mom didn't make the Brown Bread from scratch - it was good old B&M Brown Bread from a can. She'd take the bread out of the can, wrap it in foil and heat it in the oven along with the beans. We'd get a slice slathered with butter which would immediately melt into the fragrant bread. 
This bread is steamed (rather than baked) in an aluminum can. I've had the can for some time and forget which size it is, but it measured 6" high and 4" across. After the batter has been poured into the can, to be sure no water or steam got into the can while it was cooking, I placed a piece of parchment and then foil over the can and secured them with duct tape. To steam the bread, place it in a pot and add water half-way up the can, or you can use a pot with a steamer insert like I did. This bread will take an hour and a half to cook, so be sure to check the water level in the steamer periodically.

1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup corn meal
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup molasses
One clean can measuring 6" tall x 4" around

Place raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 10 minutes; drain. Combine flours, corn meal, salt, baking soda and cinnamon and whisk together. In separate bowl, combine molasses, buttermilk and raisins then add to dry mixture.

Spray inside of can liberally with cooking spray, turning to coat all surfaces. Pour mixture into can and tap on counter to remove air bubbles. Cut a 6" square of parchment and place it on top of the tin, securing with a rubber band. Cut 3 pieces of foil and place over parchment, wrapping tightly. Secure foil with rubber bands or duct tape. 

Place can in the bottom of a pot and fill half-way on the can with water. Bring to a fast boil and boil on high for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to steam an additional hour to hour-and-a-half. Add additional water as necessary. Use a long skewer and insert it in the middle of the bread. If it comes out clean, the bread is done. 

Remove can from pan; remove foil and parchment. Turn can over on a cooling rack to remove bread. Spread with butter and serve with Boston Baked Beans.


  1. I remember Boston Brown bread, but never made it. My excuse was always I didn't have the right sized can. Back then the baked beans were considered to be a main course rather than a side. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  2. Hmmm this bread looks wonderful Karen, and would best with butter .
    (sorry my english) kisses and have a nice weekend

  3. We had that treat--baked beans and brown bread--for Saturday suppers quite often. I grew up thinking it was a southern "thing". Imagine my surprise. I haven't made baked beans in a long time and we love them. But where in the heck am I going to find a can the right size for the bread. Surely those New England cooks had some sort of mold?? In any case, I'm going to look for the canned bread in the store.


  4. Karen, this bread sounds so scrumptious, but difficult for an accountant to actually make. Can't you just send me some? :0

  5. I have never beard of Boston Brown Bread. It looks so moist and rich. Thanks for sharing Karen.

  6. Oooh, I love Boston Brown Bread. My mother used to make little sandwiches out of it with a cream cheese filling. Thanks for reminding me how much I like this, Karen. I've bookmarked the recipe and will try to make it one of these days. Or I just may buy a can. Either way...yum.

  7. How cool is this recipe.. I love boston brown bread and have never made it. Thanks for this recipe.. Ive bookmarked it.

  8. Karen, I LOVE this recipe! and there is no yeast in the bread? Steamed in a can, like steamed pudding!
    Beautiful! I will try it!
    Happy New Year!

  9. Love Brown Bread. I have a recipe from my mother-in-law. A slice of cheese on it is delicious.

  10. Fun to learn about food from another part of the country! I've never even heard of brown bread in a can. :)

  11. It looks great! I haven't had it in years and must try your recipe soon. Yum!

  12. Hot dogs, baked beans & brown bread were a staple meal in my grandparent's house on any given Sunday. When I first got together with Matt & found out he'd never had this delicacy we had it the next night. He was immediately hooked! Never even considered making our own but it must be so much moister and more wholesome. Thanks for this one, it will very likely get put in the recipe box asap!

  13. I love BBB, but I bake it in small loaf pans which makes it much easier to remove. I found that tapping the pans with the raisins in it made all the raisins sink to the bottom, though. I think I may add some chopped pecans next time, also. A couple of slices of this with plenty of butter and a mug of good English Breakfast tea is the closest thing to heaven I know of!

  14. I grew up in Gardner, MA, before we knew we would be baby boomers. Then I went to school at Fitchburg State in Fitchburg, MA. Saturday night was supposed to be hot dogs and beans. That was considered to a cultural kind of thing, second only to the Boston Red Sox.

  15. I grew up in Vermont, moved away after school and have returned after retiring. Much like Postal Grunt we also had B&M Brown Bread on the weekends,baked beans and hot dogs. However, being so poor we didn't know better, we cheered on the Yankees! Hm. Imagine that. Our baked beans were made from navy beans that were soaked overnight, drained, more water added and boiled slowly on the stove. If for soup, salt pork cut into chunks was added along with celery and carrots. If for baked beans, the boiled beans were cooked down, then placed into a baking dish and baked until no longer "loose", unlike barbecued beans that are made with red sauce. I prefer VT baked beans!

    Whatever your choices, happy new year and happy eating.



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