Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can | Mini Loaves

How to make mini loaves of steamed Boston Brown Bread in a can – a perfect, classic New England addition to any meal or snack.

By Aimee Tucker

Jul 30 2019

Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

My first experience of steaming a large loaf of Boston brown bread in a can was a memorable one. The toothsome and barely-sweet loaf was like nothing I had ever tasted, thanks to the unique and rustic combination of molasses mixed with rye flour, whole-wheat flour, and cornmeal. I knew Boston brown bread is traditionally eaten with baked beans for Saturday night supper, but before I could get to Saturday, I had eaten the whole loaf toasted and buttered for breakfast. Oops!

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
Small loaves of Boston Brown Bread steamed in a can.

It was only a matter of time before I made another loaf.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I was at my local diner in Keene, New Hampshire. As I ate, I heard the gentleman at the next booth order a special off the menu — a plate of Boston Brown Bread, served with “beans and frankfurters.” When his plate emerged from the kitchen, I marveled at its New England pedigree. Thick rounds of grainy brown bread were arranged like medallions, and topped with generous scoops of baked beans. Two whole hot dogs spooned the bread and beans like a pair of commas, with no New England hot dog bun in sight.


I decided my next brown bread would be smaller loaves like I’d seen at the diner, in the style of the popular B&M brown bread in a can widely available at New England grocery stores. The opportunity finally came this past weekend. Steaming smaller loaves is not only practical (you can freeze the surplus, after all), it’s also easier, since smaller cans are a lot easier to come by these days than their 2-quart counterparts.

The batter came together quickly, but this time I spooned it into four 15.5 oz. greased aluminum cans, which were then covered with greased aluminum foil and secured in the traditional fashion.

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
The grainy cornmeal batter for Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
Filling the small cans with batter for Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can.

Note to self — I really need to invest in some sturdy string instead of always resorting to yarn!

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
The cans are arranged in a large Dutch oven for steaming.

The last time I steamed Boston brown bread, I used a few small, short cans (like the kind tuna fish comes in) to rest the batter-filled cans on to keep them off the bottom of the pot, but this time I used the rings from my large stash of empty mason jars.  They worked perfectly. A trivet would also work.

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
My cans of Boston Brown Bread will rest on Mason jar lids.

Two steamy hours later, the loaves were done and ready to come out of their aluminum hiding spots.

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can
The finished loaves of Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Can.

Then I was finally able to recreate the dish I had been dreaming of, only I sliced up the hot dogs before frying them in a little butter. This makes the plate even more of a “Franks and Beans” masterpiece.

Franks and Beans
Franks and Beans with Boston Brown Bread is an old-school New England Saturday night tradition.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker

Are you a fan of Boston Brown Bread?

This post was first published in 2012 and has been updated. 

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