Boulay's Brown Bread in a Can

Fred Boulay presenting at BSA Winter Camping School

Fred Boulay presenting at BSA Winter Camping School

It was with great sadness that we learned of the recent passing of our friend, Fred Boulay. Fred was a big guy with an even bigger passion for the outdoors and helping youth enjoy the outdoors. 

As a long-time Scouter in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Fred earned many accolades for his service, including the distinguished Silver Beaver award.

Fred told me his father passed away early, and he and his siblings grew up poor and often hungry, in rural Ontario. Part of the reason Fred put so much of his life into Scouting was because after his father died, his Scoutmaster acted like a true father figure and helped provide support and direction for him, and Fred was forever grateful.

Fred was an encyclopedia of camping knowledge and a great collector of gear, which he'd find and resell at his "Fred Marts" at outdoor gatherings. I bought many items from Fred, often at great prices, so I think he really just enjoyed doing it to interact with other outdoor enthusiasts. He'd often simply gift items as well. One of the last times I saw Fred, we unexpectedly traded books we'd set aside for each other ("Boundary Waters" and "Canoeist Sketchbook"), and he also he gave me a stuffed moose toy and patch for our baby, Lincoln. 

Fred and I shared many cups of coffee at Scouting events and also enjoyed a few cold beers at "civilian" outdoors rendezvous. 

A few years ago, Fred and I were both volunteering as instructors at Northern Star Council's Winter Camping School. Fred says to me in his thick Canadian accent, "Scott, you gotta try this brown bread, eh?" I looked at his offering. It was bread all right. And it was in a can. I'm not sure I'd ever had "brown bread," and certainly not a cylindrical loaf from a can.

Brown bread à la Fred Boulay.

Brown bread à la Fred Boulay.

I have to admit, as weird as bread in a can sounds, it was really good—especially the way Fred served it slathered in cream cheese with green olive slices on top. Fred liked taking brown bread on his outdoor trips because it doesn't get crushed, it doesn’t go stale, it's ready to serve, and it always tastes great. I did a little more research on this unknown-to-me canned bread, and it turns out brown bread is a long-standing tradition in the northeast

Fred really knew what he was talking "a-boot." The only problem is that in most parts of the world, brown bread in a can is next to impossible to find. Unless, of course, you have an internet connection: Brown Bread in a Can.

Try it for yourself! You can also make your own brown bread in a can. Here’s a recipe we found: 


  • 2/3 cup regular or blackstrap molasses

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 1/4 cup cornmeal

  • 1 cup rye flour (or whole wheat)

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • Cream cheese to serve on the side


  1. Grease three 14-ounce cans and place a round piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each can. Whisk all ingredients in a large bowl until smooth.

  2. Divide batter between the cans. Place a piece of foil over the top of each can and secure with a string. Set cans in a pot and fill with hot water to halfway up sides of cans.

  3. Set lid on pot and bring to simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until breads are set and gently pulling away from sides of can, about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs.

  4. Remove cans from pot, set on cooling rack, and remove foil. Let bread cool in can. Run knife along inside of can to loosen, then remove bread by turning can upside down and knocking it onto work surface.

  5. Serve with cream cheese. Fred put sliced green olives on his for extra flavor and to fancy things up a bit.

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