Historical Homemaking – Boston Brown Bread Recipe.

Hello readers! 

I’m so happy to introduce one of my closest friends and mentors to you! She just happens to be my Mom as well. Grandma Kiki (who is currently waiting on her second grandson and won’t let me forget it) is going to be a weekly guest writer on Just a Sparrow! She’ll be sharing homemade recipes, remedies, and tips every Thursday, so be sure to check back weekly.  Enjoy her first post on one of my favorite baked goods of hers. It is best toasted with a big ol’ scoop of cream cheese! Okay, I’ll shut up. Enjoy!

“Why do all of the meals at your house require an explanation?”

That is what my big brother asked me right before we prayed for a family dinner one evening.  I had just finished explaining all the various assembly options for dinner and pointing to the beverage center with the shelf of syrups for the homemade soda water and myriad of other hot and cold beverage options.  They were simple instructions, I thought, for a very creative and meaningful meal and it was just too bad my that brother didn’t appreciate the significance of the meal I was serving.

Instead of giving into my inclination to vow that I would never serve him anything other than pre-frozen hamburgers and store-bought potato chips during his future visits to my house, I actually contemplated his snarky question.  And after awhile, I had to admit . . . he was right.

Many of my meals require an explanation or as I prefer to believe, my meals have a story. . .

These ribs were made using Grandpa’s recipe . . . Grandma always served spaghetti like this to a large crowd . . . my gingersnaps recipe is from 1899 . . . Want to know the name of the Ohio woman who used this Boston brown bread recipe to send loaves to her son during the U.S. Civil War?. . . These sweet potato pecan biscuits were made using Thomas Jefferson’s recipe from the City Tavern cookbook – that’s the tavern in Philadelphia where the Founding Fathers met regularly to plot their rebellion against tyranny.  And Thomas Jefferson said that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing” . . . somebody better stop me now!!  Uh-oh, my brother nailed it – I am a total nerd!  (Takes one to know one.) A food nerd?  A history nerd?  Yes, probably both and what does it matter?  After all, my food tastes really yummy and who doesn’t love a good story?

Anne Graham Lotz’s book God’s Story is based on the idea that all of history is actually His-story, God’s story.  One look at the Bible and we shouldn’t doubt that God loves a good story too.  In fact, He goes so far to command His people to tell their stories and His stories to their children:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. . . be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. . . In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?”  tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”Deuteronomy 6:5-9, 12, 20-21

I always say that I want to be a food historian when I grow up but, maybe I would rather be a food His-story-an.  Learning about history has enriched my life and strengthened my faith enough that I do not wonder why God commands us to propitiate the stories of past generations. 

Personally, stories of historical homemaking deeply inspire me to serve my family with a gentler heart; they shift my perspective so I can focus on the needful things;  they make me work a little harder to get something a little better; they remind me to appreciate modern conveniences; they enable me to know true satisfaction in my work; they save me money; they cost me time well-wasted; and they teach me as Solomon discovered, there really is nothing new under the sun.

I hope you will be reminded in the coming days, through my His-story homemaking posts as a guest blogger for Just a Sparrow, of how much God cares about every detail of our lives.

Oh, before I forget, her name was Mrs. Loos.  You know, the name of the lady who made Boston brown bread for her son in the Ohio Brigade during the U.S. Civil War.  I know you were still wondering about that.  She shared the recipe with her neighbor, Mrs. Mamie Timmer whose great-grandson, Jim aka “onerealoldguy,” sold it to me on Ebay for $1.00 in 2006.  Guess what I love most about this recipe?  Besides that it is very old and authentic, it came with and requires an explanation story.  I just wait for someone to ask when I’m selling my Boston Brown Bread at the local farmers market, “Did you really bake this in a tin can?”  Of course the baby boomers and greatest generation-ers don’t have to ask because they remember.  They see those familiar dark barrels of rich molasses-thickened morsels of childhood memories, a warm smile appears on their face, and their stories just start pouring out.  And my heart swells as I get to listen and learn.

Here’s the recipe complete with all of “onerealoldguy’s” notes:

Boston Brown Bread

Mix together the following and let sit a few minutes while it foams up:
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ cups Gold Label Orleans molasses (mom used this as original recipe called for a store bought 12 oz. bottle)
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl  combine:
6 cups graham or whole wheat flour
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 cups buttermilk
1 ½ cups raisins (optional)
Add molasses to flour mixture & stir. Original recipe called for those “new” tin cans with the lead on the “outside.”  Take 6 regular size cans.  Not Campbell’s Soup size.  Next size up ie: pineapple, Armor Chili, Dinty Moore.  Take off labels and wash and dry.  Fill 6 well-greased and floured tin cans half full.  Bake at 300 degrees for one hour.  Should have a nice mushroom head.  I like with cream cheese or butter.  Note:  place cans evenly on a cookie sheet to bake.
Apparently, a true Bostonian will tell you that realBoston Brown Bread is steamed, not baked as in Jim’s recipe above.  I have both baked and steamed this bread and don’t notice a significant difference in the texture or moistness.  For instructions on steaming your bread, follow this link:

Praying blessings on your home,

Grandma Kiki

Kim Yount’s interest in Historical Homemaking began with Civil War
Reenacting and led to selling her sundries at Farmers Markets across
the Big Horn Basin. Her cookies are a local favorite and she enjoys
sharing stories with her customers and giving free samples.

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