7 Loaves Brown Bread


- Janet Young



1 box 100% Bran  (7Cups)

3 ½ cup sugar

1 box raisins

Mix well together then add the following:


3 ½ teaspoons salt

7 teaspoons soda

¾ cup molasses (Grandmas' for dark bread)

7 cups flour (real full)

7 cups Buttermilk or 21-28 Tablespoons dry buttermilk 7 cups water


1 large pot

7 coffee cans



Place ingredients about ¾ full in coffee cans then place aluminum foil over the top (can secure with rubber bands).  Fill pot with water bring to boil.  Place coffee cans in boiling water.  Steam three hours.  Check bread every hour and refill water as needed.


My Grandmother's kitchen was always warm with the smells of baking.  She prepared breads, cakes, and pies either for holidays, church event or because she always had a dessert available for consumption by family and friends.  The Brown Bread recipe was a family story that my Grandmother was passing on to me as the oldest female grandchild.  The story of the Brown Bread began as a secret family recipe that had been in the family for a very long time.  The preparation of the cooking utensil was as important as the ingredients.  The big black pot was large and heavy when filled with water and my Grandmother always spun the tale of the cans used for the bread.  The cans were supposed to be old oilcans from her Great-Great Grandmother. For this recipe, I used small coffee cans. The other part of the process of the Brown Bread was retrieving the rock.  It was always my job to retrieve the rock she placed on the top of the cans to keep them in place during the boiling process.  We were co-conspirators with a secret that was between us not for the rest of the family.  The truth was many of the families in our community were perpetuating the same family story.  At Church Bazaars, many of the women in the quilting bee's had the same bread prepared.  All of the men acted like each loaf of bread was different. 

By selecting this recipe, I have discussed our family history through conversations with my Father and Uncle about what they remembered about Brown Bread.  My father related how on a farm this bread was very versatile because it would cook on the wood stove and did not need to rise like other breads.  Many of the ingredients were available on the farm.  Given the responsibilities of children and animals, many of the families in Greenfield used this recipe because of the convenience of being able to leave the bread unattended on the wood stove.  Brown Bread contributed to a social history involving a "secret" passed on to the oldest daughter in the family.  The idea of a tradition was important because as a female the land would pass to my brother.  The preparation of the Brown Bread and the tasks in the kitchen were part of my heritage from my Grandmother.

The beginning of my Grandmother's family traces back to William the Conqueror who rewarded the Ormsbee family members for their military prowess over the English (Brown 177).  The first Ormsbee to arrive in America was in 1639 in Maine.  The first Ormsbee with a traceable history was after the American Revolution.  Isaac Ormsbee walked to Greenfield from Rhode Island in 1796.  He fought with General George Washington at the defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown.  There is speculation in our oral history that Isaac selected this area with his friends because he fought in the area.  The cementary in Wakefied Rhode Island contain graves from many of the same families that reside in Greenfield today.

One of the ingredients of particular interest was Molasses.  Molasses played a role in the history of our country.  Molasses and Maple Syrup were used as a sugar substitute.  The Molasses Act of 1733 created a tax of six pence on every gallon of molasses sold.  The tax was to encourage the colonist to use sugar product from the British Caribbean.  The Molasses Act led to the Sugar Act and continued the taxing the British used which led to the resistance and the formation of the Sons of Liberty.  The secret of my Grandmother's receipt was the molasses.  The brand Grandma's molasses contributed to the darker color of the bread.  Currently there are different types of molasses that can change the flavor of the bread. 




Brown, Clayton.  Greenfield Glimpses.  Greenfield, 1976.

Shiva, Vandana. Stolen Harvest:  The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply.  Boston: South End Press, 2000.