Canned Bread – Yes, It’s a Thing and Been Around for Centuries!

Written By Elly Mitchell
in Want

The words ‘canned’ and ‘bread’ are arguably the most ill-sorted items to sit together in a sentence, however, take yourself on a trip to New England and this obscure menu choice becomes the makings of a quintessential childhood tradition.

Despite its appearance being miles apart from your recognisable, freshly baked loaf, this dense, moist comfort food is created using natural ingredients, making it high in fibre and very low in calories – who would have thought it!

B&M Canned bread. A firm staple of the New Englander diet. (Photo: mccun934/Flickr)
B&M Canned bread. A firm staple of the New Englander diet. (Photo: mccun934/Flickr)

Canned bread was traditionally steamed in coffee cans, due to the scarcity of ovens. The recipe dates back to 17th century America and to this day, is formulated using the three staple, and often the only available, ingredients of early American cooking; cornmeal, rye flour and molasses, offering a texture that is both dense and crumbly; much like cake.

How should I eat canned bread?

Of course, it’s not surprising that such a quirky delicacy has a recommended serve outside the parameters of regular bread – you won’t be using it for your standard lunchbox sandwich, that’s for sure!

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It is most popularly served straight out the can, sliced and slathered in butter, jam or cream cheese. Alternatively, if you’re feeling particularly inspired by the prospect of further canned goods, you can enjoy it topped with baked beans.

As if that isn’t enough, there are also sweet versions available, using raisins to create a further versatile treat.

Where can I get it?

Canned bread, or as it’s known outside of New England, Boston brown bread is recognisable from its B&M branding. B&M, more famous for baked beans, make canned bread at a factory on Casco Bay, Portland. Canned bread can be found on the shelves of most supermarkets, but it has also landed itself on mainstream sales sites such as Amazon, meaning it’s accessible for anyone who fancies a taste of the peculiar!

In 1918, Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka commissioned a life-sized sex doll of his former lover, Alma Mahler (widow of composer Gustav Mahler and then-wife of architect Walter Gropius). He dressed it in custom-made clothes and took it with him on trips, to cafés, and to the theater. He destroyed it publicly several years later, claiming it had “cured him of his passions." 

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