It’s a New England tradition that goes back generations. It’s called brown bread. When you buy it in the grocery store (or on Amazon, I checked) it comes in a can. The most proliferate brand is B&M, the same company that’s most well known for its varieties of baked beans. (B&M stands for Burnham & Morrill, by the way.)
“Why,” you might ask, “would they put bread in a can?”
You might guess it’s because the bread is really wet–something more akin to bread pudding or undercooked French Toast. Actually that’s not the case at all.
Brown bread is moist, but only in the way good cake is moist. It’s not wet or … yech … slimy … at all. I promise.
You cut both ends out of the can, slide out the loaf, cut a slice, butter it up, and you’re eating good, decent dark bread minus the crust. It’s slightly sweet, but not overly so. If you want more sweet, there’s also a B&M canned version with raisins. Also, very good.
For camping, bread in a can makes lots of sense. First, it stays in good, safe, edible condition for a very long time. So it’s the perfect kind of food to store at a remote cabin or just leave in the RV from trip to trip until you decide to slot it into your campsite menu. If your space is limited, and you find yourself cramming the provisions together, a loaf of bread in a flimsy plastic wrapper can easily get crushed. If the air is at all humid, you end up unpacking a wad of dough that’s better used as carp bait than making a tasty sandwich.
Finding brown bread in the grocery store can be a challenge, especially outside of New England. I’ve had better luck asking for it at the fancy “gourmet” grocery stores than the big chains, and the best luck at the odd mom & pop groceries in small towns in camping country like near Yellowstone or the Black Hills. There’s always a can or two in the larder at our little off-the-beaten-track rustic cabin.
There’s another option, too. You can make brown bread pretty easily yourself and, oddly enough, you make it in a can, too! The biggest things that set brown bread apart from “regular” bread are it has no yeast and it is steamed instead of baked in an oven. Here’s a recipe to try with your Dutch Oven right at your campfire.
- ½ cup graham or whole-wheat flour
- ½ cup rye flour
- ½ cup yellow corn meal
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 3 Tbs. rendered bacon grease
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup black strap molasses
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
- ¼ cup brown sugar (optional)
- unsalted butter
- empty, clean one-pound metal coffee can
- In large mixing bowl, mix together all dry ingredients.
- Ad wet ingredients (and raisins, if you're using), and stir into a smooth batter.
- Thoroughly butter the inside of the coffee can.
- Spoon the batter into the can, leaving at least 1½ inches at the top to allow for the bread to rise.
- Cover the can securely with greased aluminum foil.
- Place the can in a Dutch Oven deep enough that the lid fits tightly with the can upright inside.
- Add enough water to come halfway up the can. Bring the water to a simmer, then cover the Dutch Oven, and steam for 90 to 105 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the top of the bread comes out clean (remove foil to test.) Replenish the water if needed while steaming.
- Cool bread in the can on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes, then remove from the can. If the bread won't come out from the top, use a can opener to remove the other end of the can and push the "loaf" on through.
- Slice and serve with butter, and honey if you like.