In New England, one of the most popular varieties of brown bread is made by B&M in Portland, Maine, and it’s sold in a can. It might sound strange to the non-native Yankee to imagine buying bread in a can at the supermarket alongside the baked beans (which B&M also makes with pride), but if you’ve ever steamed a loaf yourself at home, you know it can take awhile, making the a can a handy alternative.
It’s not clear when B&M (the letters stand for co-founders George Burnham and Charles Morrill) started selling their version of the classic New England bread (a sweet variety made from cornmeal, wheat and rye flours, and molasses), but like its Necco Wafer and Moxie kin, the bread has been around so long it’s hard to imagine a time when it wasn’t for sale. The company got its start back in 1867 canning meats, seafood, and corn, but by 1927 B&M’s brick oven baked beans hit the market, and business (if you’ll pardon the pun) boomed on a national scale. The company was sold several times starting in 1965, but despite each new ownership, both the B&M name and the Portland plant have remained.
When eating canned bread (B&M sells the bread in both original and “with raisins” for those that like things sweet), a handy can opener is necessary to first remove both the top and bottom lids, and then, with a gentle shake, the bread emerges and is ready for slicing.
Dense, moist, and made from natural ingredients, B&M’s brown bread is a solid ready-to-eat representative of the classic New England dish. Some folks enjoy eating the bread sliced up as-is at room temperature, but you can also warm it in the microwave or toaster oven. It’s good topped with butter, cream cheese, or jam.
You can also make it a meal by serving the bread topped with a generous ladle of baked beans. Hot dogs on the plate are also not uncommon. In many households, hot dogs and baked beans with brown bread (canned or homemade) was a Saturday night tradition. For many, it still is.
Are you a fan of B&M Brown Bread in a can? Do you like it with butter or beans? Hot dogs? All three? Share your brown bread in a can memories with us!