Thursday, June 13, 2019

Canned Bread

A long time ago, in a land not so far away, I was introduced to shelf-stable bread. The US Army had developed a method of baking bread inside a foil/plastic pouch called retort cooking that rendered the bread shelf-stable with a life measured in years. The small “loaves” were a bit bigger than a dinner roll, were generally dry, dense, and quite bland even for white bread. I haven't been able to track them down recently, but I wasn't very impressed with them so I haven't tried very hard.

Having tested several brands of emergency rations and reported my findings here last year, I have been broadening my research of storeable foods with an emphasis on items that are closer to normal food. I'll leave the discussion of home canning and pressure cookers to my fellow authors who have more experience with them; I'm content with buying some of my stored food and trading for the homemade stuff.

I've seen canned bread online a few times but have never seen it on a store shelf, so I hadn't had a chance to try it. I prefer to purchase as much as I can locally as cash sales are hard to track and I like to support local businesses to keep them around. You'd be amazed at the contraction of buying options I've witnessed in my hometown over the last few decades, so I do my part to keep the few remaining stores in business. Unfortunately, canned bread isn't a big seller around here, so I went on Amazon and found a brand to try.

B&M (Burnham & Morrill) Brown Bread is my first test. B&M has used the same recipe since 1869 and they say the bread is slow-baked in brick ovens, I ordered a couple of cans and here's what I think of it.
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) for about $12 is expensive bread. Cheap, store brand, white bread is about $3 for a 24 ounce loaf locally; the fancy breads come close to the price of the canned bread, but I have a hard time paying $6 for a small loaf sandwich bread so I don't buy the fancy stuff. I did notice that buying it by the case of 12 cans knocks the price down to $3/can, which is a lot better buy.
  • If you look carefully at the pictures to the right, you'll see the indentations from the ribs of the can on the bread after it has been removed from the can. The top is also rounded like a normal loaf and you can see spatters on the inside of the can above the bread. This shows that the bread is baked in the can, probably before the can was sealed. I didn't see any spatters or marks on the underside of the lid, so I'm betting the lids was put on after the can came out of the oven.
  • There was a noticeable “hiss” when I started to open the can, which tells me it was sealed while still warm or hot. The can itself is sturdy, an old style tinned steel can that can take some abuse.
  • The instructions said to remove both ends of the can and push the bread out but I was able to open one end and shake the “loaf” out. It is firm enough to hold its form without the can.
  • The cans I received in June of 2019 have a “best by” date of September 2020. Allowing for storage and transportation time, that means the factory gives it a shelf-life of 18 to 24 months. I'm sure it would be safe to eat, if properly stored, for quite a while longer than that.
  • The bread itself is dense, moist, and not white. I've eaten a lot of different breads over the years, and like any food it is as varied as the people who bake it. The closest I can come to describing the flavor is similar to a sweet dessert bread. The rye flour gives it a distinct flavor.
  • The dark brown color comes from the addition of a healthy dose of molasses. I personally like the flavor of molasses, but I know it turns some people off. The molasses flavor is mild, not even as strong as some molasses cookies I've enjoyed.
  • Molasses is a great source of iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Farmers used to set out containers of it for grazing cows to lick, just as a supplemental source of minerals, but the engineered feeds have replaced that. According to the label, this bread is a fair source of iron and calcium.
  • It is bread, so the main ingredient is wheat. Sorry, gluten-intolerant readers, this one isn't for you.
  • The ingredients list is surprisingly simple: water, wheat, molasses, sugar, rye flour, whey, corn meal, baking soda, buttermilk, salt, and oil. No chemical preservatives, no artificial colors or flavors, and no emulsifiers or conditioners to change the texture. I like simple.

For something to have on the shelf, this would make a good change of pace to break the flavor monotony of a limited diet and could even be used as a treat if you like the flavor. It might do well as a breakfast food or snack; I've seen a lot of comments suggesting it toasted with a bit of butter. The shelf-life is what I consider minimal (two years isn't that long) but it's better than a plastic bag of bread from the store. For camping or hiking, the sturdy can and dense consistency would place it in the “good” category of choices for food.

1 comment:

  1. We eat B&M brown bread all the time. Our supermarket stocks it right next to their canned beans. I always keep a couple dozen cans on hand as survival food, too. Lasts way past the use by date on the can. I like it toasted with butter. It comes with or without raisins.


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