Boston Brown Bread may date back to Colonial America, but eating it now hardly feels like dining with the Pilgrims. This steamed, molasses-laden comfort food comes in a can. You’ll need an opener to crack the lid off and thwack or jiggle out the dense roll of bread inside. For some New Englanders, especially in the Boston area and Portland, Maine, it’s a nostalgic childhood tradition.
The recipe calls for cornmeal mixed with molasses and rye and wheat flours. Traditionally, the mixture is then poured into a coffee can or small mold and steamed until it rises. The result? A bread as sweet and dense as cake. The legacy of the 17th century recipe has been carried on by companies like B&M (which also sell Boston baked beans). Locals don’t bat an eye when they have to search for canned bread among stewed peaches and kidney beans in the supermarket.
New Englanders serve canned bread several ways. Once extracted from its can, the bread can be sliced and served simply with butter, cream cheese, or jam. (B&M offers a plain version or one with raisins.) For a heartier meal, a Saturday night tradition involves pouring baked beans and chopped hot dogs over the bread. It’s a niche tradition, even within New England. But given the shelf life, it’s not surprising that canned bread has lasted this long.
Need to Know
Taking the top and bottom off the can makes it easier to get the bread out of the can. If you don't live near a grocery store with canned bread, you can find recipes online.