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Granny's Homemade Brown Bread

Granny’s Homemade Brown Bread
11 votes, 4.45 avg. rating (88% score)
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Total Time: 20

Yield: 1 loaf

Brown bread is the traditional accompaniment to baked beans, a true New England favorite, but the best homemade brown bread recipe involves steaming the loaf. To rig up a steamer, add 2 inches of water to a large pot; then place a brick or tin can in the center of the pot and set an empty 23-ounce coffee can (or 7- to 8-cup cylindrical mold) on top of it. Cover the pot tightly, and check it every 30 minutes to make sure there's still plenty of water at the bottom.

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Traditional New England Brown Bread Recipe
Photo/Art by Heath Robbins


  • 1 cup graham flour (or use whole-wheat flour)
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup sultanas or other raisins (optional)
  • Unsalted butter


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and sultanas, if you like, and stir to form a smooth batter.

Butter the mold thickly and add batter (to about one-third of the way). Cover the pan with buttered foil and tie it in place with a string.

Place the mold in a steamer pot over 2 inches of rapidly boiling water (you'll need to add more water as it cooks). Cover and cook 2-3 hours, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean.

Unmold on a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Serve warm, slathered with butter.
Updated Sunday, December 27th, 2015

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6 Responses to Granny’s Homemade Brown Bread

  1. Cyndy Rogers August 14, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    This bread bakes up fabulously and flawlessly. I used whole wheat in place of the graham flour, everything else as listed, and since I preserve food, I had a large boiling water canning vessel all set up for the steaming. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Baked through in 2.5 hours. Raisins are a must. Delicious with butter or on its own. Highly recommend this recipe, and will use again and again.

  2. Donald Gfroerer April 23, 2015 at 8:00 pm #

    I used to send Brown Bread to a friend in Kentucky and he would in turn send me a bottle of Markers Mark Kentucky Bourbon. We did this for several years until I finally let him in on the cost difference. He, his friends and family can’t get over bread in a can and that it tastes so good. We still occasionally trade care packages with products from our respective areas or travels and I still always include the bread in a can. Also this was a tradition on Saturday nights growing up…hotdogs, B+M Baked Beans and of course B+M Brown Bread!

  3. Judy Reddish April 24, 2015 at 1:09 am #

    my husband is from NH and has spoken often of eating brown bread in a can. Can someone please answer a question I have? Is the batter actually placed in a large bean can? Does the can sit directly in the boiling water or lay on the steamer insert in the steamer pan?
    Thank you to anyone in advance that can help me out.
    Judy Reddish

  4. Pam Alley January 6, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

    Can anyone tell me where to find graham flour? I live on Vinalhaven, and I thought for sure I could get it here. After all, Bean Suppers at the Union Church have been going on here since the 50’s!


    • Aimee Seavey January 7, 2016 at 10:05 am #

      Hi Pam. Bob’s Red Mill makes a graham flour — if you know a shop or supermarket that carries a lot of the Bob’s line, you may be able to find it!

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