What is canned bread?
Canned bread. Yes, it’s a real thing.
This unusual way to package and consume bread can be found in the store or made at home. It’s not exactly like your average, sliced white or brown bread that comes in a loaf bag — canned bread has a unique taste and texture, as well as an interesting history.
Allrecipes recently highlighted this uncommon carb in a TikTok post and article. The bread comes out of the can much like a hunk of solid cranberry jelly, with ridges clearly etched into the sides. It’s dense and relatively moist and has a small list of all-natural ingredients.
A Brief Brown Bread History
The origins of canned bread started well before canning was invented in the early 19th century.
Early European settlers to New England struggled to grow wheat crops and needed to rely on what was easier to cultivate in the rocky soil and cold climate of the area. They came up with “thirded bread,” or “third bread,” meant to stretch the available wheat grain. It used a third each of wheat, rye and cornmeal. Because rye is low in gluten and cornmeal is gluten-free, the bread was very dense.
The bread was also steam-cooked over an open fire, as ovens weren’t initially available. Molasses and buttermilk were later added to the recipe, along with other ingredients, and New England or Boston brown bread became a regional staple. Later, this bread was steam-cooked in jars, cans and molds.
In 1928, canning company B&M started manufacturing canned and steamed brown bread. They later added a version with raisins.
Canned or jarred bread can also be found in Eastern Europe, Japan and other parts of the world.
How to Make Brown Bread at Home
If you don’t live where B&M cans are sold on store shelves and don’t want to shell out for canned bread online, you can also try your hand at the brown bread recipe yourself.
It doesn’t have to be cooked in a can; it can also be made in loaf pans and other oven-safe containers or molds.
The YouTube account Tasting History with Max Miller has a very informative history of Boston brown bread and recreates a late 1800s Fannie Farmer recipe for the bread.
While the traditional recipe has the bread steaming in the can for 3.5 hours, you can also speed up this process with a pressure cooker. If you’re not a purist, you can also try out the New York Times‘ modernized version of Boston brown bread that uses Korean fermented soybean paste.
How Do I Eat Canned Bread?
You can of course eat this canned brown bread straight out of the jar. But other suggestions include toasting it and covering it with butter, cream cheese, jam and other sweet or savory spreads.
One classic New England combination that dates back to colonial days is brown bread with baked beans. Colonial Americans were not eating the bread and beans with hot dogs (more like salt pork) but that is also a common regional pairing today.
Does canned bread seem less of a foreign idea to you now? Would you try it?