If you’re from New England, and specifically Boston, you know all about Boston Brown Bread – Pared with Boston baked beans and fresh cole slaw, it’s graced many a Saturday night supper throughout New England.
The B&M company, not to be confused with the huge British food conglomerate, has been making baked beans and brown bread for over 150 years, and there’s a reason they’re still around doing just that .
A lot of folks, even locals, think that B&M is a Massachusetts based enterprise, but it ain’t so. Way back in 1867, George Burnham started a canning business and was joined by Charles Morrill – and Burnham & Morrill was born. B&M has been a fixture in Portland, Maine at One Bean Pot Circle, ever since.
Their rightfully famous beans are still slow cooked in brick ovens, and their brown bread is The One, as far as I’m concerned. Brown bread cans are filled with batter and the product is baked therein – and that’s just how you can do it at home.
In the 19th Century, Brown Bread was poverty food throughout the British Empire, although it eventually gained cache for the health benefits of the mixed flour used to make it. It eventually crossed the big pond and became a staple for the colonists, then a sentimental favorite. Keeping in mind that lobster was also once considered ‘poverty food,’ I don’t think there’s a stigma attached to liking brown bread.
Boston Brown Bread is a great recipe for folks who are nervous about bread baking – It’s easy, fast, and almost foolproof – Brown Bread is steamed, rather than baked, and requires very little prep time.
If you’ve never tried it, do. Served hot with fresh butter, ham, baked beans, and cole slaw, you got that legendary Saturday Night Suppah – And it’s great the next morning, too.
Boston Brown Bread
1 Cup Whole Milk
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Rye Flour
1/2 Cup Corn Meal
1/3 Cup Dark Molasses
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Orange Zest
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter for greasing cans
NOTE: there are folks, (even B&M), who make this with raisins or currants within – I’m not one of them, but if you are, you can add a quarter cup to this recipe.
there are also purists who pull eschew the addition of flavorings such as vanilla, allspice, and orange zest – I’m not one of those, either.
Rinse and dry two 28 Ounce metal cans with one end of each cut off.
Move a rack to the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325° F.
Choose an oven safe pot or dish deep enough so that you can fill it with water to about halfway up the sides of the cans. Boil enough water on the stove top to fill that pot or dish.
Lightly coat the insides of the cans with vegetable oil.
In a mixing bowl, combine wheat flour, rye flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, and salt.
Add the molasses, milk, vanilla and zest to the dry ingredients and thoroughly combine.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cans. Cover the top of each can with a double thickness of aluminum foil and tie securely with kitchen string. Place the cans in your deep pan and slide that into the preheated oven.
Carefully fill the pan with boiling water to about halfway up the sides of the cans.
Bake for 70 to 75 minutes. At seventy minutes, remove the foil tops. When the edges of the bread begin to pull away from the sides of the cans, you’re there.
Remove the cans from the oven, place on a wire rack to cool for 1 hour before sliding the bread out of the cans. If the bread is a bit sticky, a thin bladed knife run around the can will free it up.
Don’t forget to have plenty of fresh, local butter on hand…