Boston Brown Bread!

New England is in my blood, even as I identify myself very much a California Woman. George Hall, my paternal gggggggggrandfather arrived in Massachusetts shores in the 1630’s! As a teen I attended high school in Massachusetts, spending summers in Maine. During this time I absorbed a bit of New England culture. Along with beef stews full of carrots and onions and potatoes there was brown bread, which, when my daughter Antonia was a wee little girl, I taught myself to make. Who knows what moved me to dig out that recipe and make a batch after so many years? But I did, and here I share with you, as it’s ever so easy to make and a delightful addition to your repertoire!

Here’s what you need to get started:

Ingredients for making Boston Brown Bread
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda

3/4 cup molasses
1 cup raisins
2 cups buttermilk

Simple directions:

Mix in a medium size bowl the dry ingredients listed above.


In a larger bowl whisk together the second group of ingredients above. I used a combination of dark and golden raisins.


Add wet mix to dry.


This is the unexpected part, for rather than placing the batter into a traditional pan, you need to fill several metal cans, which you have greased with butter, 2/3 full. For this recipe I chose to use four cans that had contained organic pumpkin (which I feed to my dogs). I specifically chose these cans as they did not have BPA liners. Were you to look for alternative recipes you would also see that some folks use empty metal coffee cans. I don’t drink coffee, so that would not be an option. These worked perfectly. So here they are, ready for the next step.


Now. The next step will seem unlikely, but follow along! You need to place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of each can, and tie down the foil with twine. Two notes: the side of the foil which faces the batter you want to also grease with butter. And I doubled the foil prior to placing over top of can.

And then you place the covered cans in a heavy kettle of water. Water level should reach half way up the cans. Cover.


Bring the water to a shallow boil and reduce the heat sufficiently that the water is simply simmering. You will need to allow this simmering for two hours. Be sure to check water level so it does not evaporate below the half way mark. And be sure, also, to check the heat level so the simmering is gentle.

When the two hours are up, remove cans from the water, remove the foil, and place cans on a board or counter to cool.
Once cooled, run a knife around inside edge and the bread will readily slip out of the can.


Boston Brown Bread is traditionally associated with hot dogs and baked beans, which is a lovely way to serve. But don’t hesitate to simply put a bit of butter on top and serve for breakfast or tea. Or try a delicious bit of cream cheese as well. I particularly appreciate that it is iron rich with molasses! Note: To store, I place in a plastic bag and refrigerate. As I want to serve, I slice off what I need, and steam prior to serving. I think you will find it deliciously yummy and a family favorite!
Love and kitchen blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: This week I received notice that this blog was included on a list of Top Twenty Gardening Blogs of 2013. A complete list can be found here. I’m also very much looking forward to an upcoming interview. On June 23rd at 8:30AM (PDT) I will be a guest on the gardening show “Bob Tanem in the Garden” on KSFO in San Francisco!

15 Responses to “Boston Brown Bread!”

  1. […] Boston Brown Bread! […]

  2. Oh, your timing is perfect. It’s baked beans season and Boston Baked Beans are always my favorite. I so miss Boston Brown Bread but we never seem to remember to buy any. I’ve never tried to make it but this is easy. Do you think I could swap our dark honey for the molasses? Everything else is just fine, lots of complex carbs. I’m sending Sue to buy rye flour next time she goes shopping and buttermilk, but you could use plain yogurt as well, I would think. Cheers from Cousin Julie who also has very old Mass. roots.

  3. Hi, cousin Julie, who shares my old New England roots! (Thank God for genealogy!) You could try the dark honey, but it won’t be the same. If you’re looking for that authentic Boston Brown Bread taste, it’s gotta be molasses. 🙂
    I was happy to use the buttermilk as it’s what Southerners do in cornbread, right? So it seemed like a perfect choice. Those with food considerations, feel free to experiment! It’s all good! Kathryn xoxo

  4. Yum! What a great post, mom! You’ve made it so easy to follow along, with all of your lovely pics. I find myself inspired to try it out. 🙂

    Love you,

  5. Hi, Antonia! Thanks! Yes, try it! Bet you’ll love it! It’s very fast prep time and the reward is delicious! Love, Mom xoxo

  6. I have made the bread in years past and it is sooo good. We used wax paper to cover..same difference. Always enjoy your posts and, yes, the pictures make them special.

    My newest receipe to try is ruhbarb cake. Was good.

  7. Good morning, Alice! Happy to know you have made this special treat! Waxed paper makes a good alternative. And rhubarb cake sounds delicious! Kathryn xooxo

  8. What an interesting recipe Kathryn – sounds lovely and I might even give it a go! Rhubarb cake is indeed delicious – I’ve got a stock in my freezer from our rhubarb glut!

  9. Hi, Liz! That would be lovely, as it’s a New England recipe and I’m guessing it might have its roots in the UK! Send it back over the pond! Let me know! Kathryn xoxo

  10. So Sue went out and got me rye flour and cornmeal so I’m going to experiment and see what I get.
    Hugs, cousin Julie

  11. Fabulous, Julie! Let me know what you think! I bet it’s delicious! Kathryn xoxo

  12. Thank you for sharing your Boston Brown Bread recipe. I’ve made it off and on for years, but yours is the best, so moist and almost sticky with some cold real butter, can eat it for days. I wasn’t using enough buttermilk. I don’t care for the rye flour in this, however, and substitute whole wheat or graham flour.

    Now I’ve been looking for a recipe for steamed cranberry bread. I don’t want to use molasses which is just a sub of cranberries for raisins. I thought I’d try some Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey or comb of both. I will use dried cranberries and soak them. Also corn meal, semolina, and AP flour, hoping for a pretty golden color. Then I will use some orange zest from a whole orange) and maybe some concentrated orange juice and cut down the buttermilk just a little. Hope it turns out.

  13. Hi, Alice and welcome and thank you! I’m delighted you like the recipe. I’m intrigued by the cranberry bread idea. I hope you find the perfect recipe! Happy baking! Kathryn xoxo

  14. Hi again, Kathry, will be brief. Just shared your recipe with someone whose mom used to make it. I made the cranberry/Lyle’s syrup version, am sure I counted everything right, the texture was the same, but I like the brown bread better; it’s more robust. An odd thing was that I use 3 fruit tins, should check the BPA or whatever safety; the brown comes out perfectly in the fatter cans. Somehow I only got two out of the cranberry version. Some people might even like it.

    I really enjoyed your nostalgia about New England. Have lots of New England ancestors, and got to spend 6 months in MA. Never got to Maine though, and always wanted to. I loved the quaintness of New England. Was in the 60’s, cost of living is terrible now. I don’t hear the New England accent I heard then, maybe it is me or maybe it is tv has made regional dialects less pronounced. My CT ancestor on my father’s side came with Lion Gardiner to Ft. Saybrook in 1635.

    Lived in CA for 2 years, it was beautiful there, too, and mild weather but got homesick for the midwest. Now the cost of living is impossible there, too. Best wishes to you and your daughter, Antonia, and enjoy your blog.

  15. Hi, Alice! How kind of you to update us on the cranberry bread! You’re inspiring me to make some more Boston brown bread, which I’ve not done in awhile. Thank you! Kathryn oxox

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