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Prepping 101: Canning Boston Brown Bread – Fill Those Empty Ball Jars

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Resources:
The Canning Granny Original Experiment – (note she uses a water bath canner which is a bad idea)
B&M Brown Bread at Walmart – $36/case
50 lbs. Medium Rye Flour at Honeyville – $55
Gallon Molasses on Amazon – $18 or 4/$70
BetterPak Automatic Can Sealer – $1,480 AliExpress
(Note that you can email directly kevinludy (a t) hotmail.com and he will sell direct for $1,250. The machine is now available in 110v and he has the measurements for the cans)
Steel Cans at House of Cans – Best prices with shipping I have found
Paint Mixer – Ebay $58.99

I was thinking. Does it make any sense to keep a bunch of Ball canning jars full of nothing? That is an easy answer. No. They are insect and rodent proof, so it actually makes a lot of sense to pack them full of at least something, flour, beans, rice, pasta, dried milk powder, anything that will keep for a long time under any long term storage packaging. But what about cooked food? What about processing the jars now with edible food? Veggies don’t have much in the way of calories. Meat is cheaper to buy canned than it is to can it yourself. That was when I remembered Boston Brown Bread.

When I was growing up in rural New Hampshire, it was very common to eat Boston Brown Bread in cans. You opened both ends of the can and pushed the bread out. Then you sliced it up to eat with beans. I hadn’t seen it in years, so I Googled it, and found a recipe. It actually turns out that in certain parts of the country you can still buy B&M Brown Bread (they dropped the Boston), so I ordered some of that as well. The recipe is closer to what I remember than the ones you buy today, though I personally tasted neither (I don’t eat sugars). Brown Bread is an acquired taste regardless, because it relies on molasses for flavoring, but as a survival food, it pretty much rocks.

As you’ll see in the video, I did not meet with instant success using this recipe, but only because of my unwillingness to read the full directions. The video is long, but I wanted to show you my mistakes so you don’t make them yourself. I filled the jars too full and they exploded. But eventually I got it, and the consistency, while more dense than the commercial Brown Bread, is moist and pleasant. My official taste testers said they wouldn’t eat the stuff in normal life, but that if there was nothing else, you could do a lot worse.

My main focus for the idea was to see if I could make a calorie rich, and somewhat durable food to store in Ball jars. But what kicked me over the edge to dedicate time to the project was my desire to share with you an automatic steel can sealer that I got from China. Boston Brown Bread of course has always been sold in steel cans, not glass jars, and as you’ll see in the video, I needed to use up some large 403 tomato sauce sized cans in order to change the machine over from that can to #10 cans. Since making the Brown Bread video I have actually done that, and it was easier than expected. I may run it next week.

For this project with the Brown Bread I ran out of cans before I figured out the secret to how they do it in the factory. For sure they only fill the cans half to two thirds, but what I had missed was that they don’t seal the can until the bread has been at least partially cooked and is fully set. In the video I opened the factory can to show you that the bread barely touches the top lid. So that means they fill the cans, then hold the lid on with some sort of pressure, then steam them until the bread sets, then they put them through the can sealing rollers before the final pressure canning process. It took a bad canning seal for the lights to go on in my head. Perhaps a normal person would have figured it out sooner.

From a cost perspective, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to buy steel cans and a can sealer to make Boston Brown Bread (not that any of you would have). The ingredients, as you see them at the end of the video, come out to about 1,100 calories per dollar. I found bulk molasses on Amazon for roughly $18 per gallon, and I got a 50lb bag of rye flour from Honeyville. Walmart brand flour is impossible to beat for price, and now Walmart has their own brand of corn flour that worked great in this recipe. Those are the core ingredients, and they are actually by volume they are equal in this recipe. Then you use a 2:1 on a liquid. I used almond milk because of kosher reasons, but the recipe calls for buttermilk or soured milk. Soured milk you can make with a little bit of vinegar added to regular milk. Then, per cup of the 4 key ingredients, you add a teaspoon of baking powder, baking soda, salt and allspice. My local supermarkets are allspice challenged so I used pumpkin pie spice.

If you were to buy new ball jars to make this recipe, it lowers to total calories per dollar to about 700. Compare that to the Mayday bars that I showed you at the end of the video. They are also edible with no cooking, also calorie dense, and they go for about 600 calories per dollar in bulk with no effort. If you have more time than money, it probably makes sense to get some Ball jars, especially if you already have a pressure canner. But if you don’t, the start up costs probably aren’t worth it unless you have been meaning to learn some canning and have been putting it off. This idea and recipe are a pretty good to get going.

I used both both regular large mouth quart Ball jars and the slightly more expensive ($10 for 9 instead of 12) pint and a half slant sided jars. If you want to be able to slide the bread out for slicing, use the latter, and spray them well with oil spray. If you are cool with picking the food out with a fork, even the regular mouth canning jars are fine. You can get those in off brand for even less than $10/12. I had a lot of pint and a half jars and I figured out that they hold about 1,000 calories worth of bread, filling them 2/3rds full. That is the same as the commercial B&M Brown Bread in the one pound size that are $36 per 12 at Walmart online (which works out to 346 calories per dollar – less than many meat products).

If you are a new reader to this column, the concept of calories per dollar is probably new to you. Survival food from Wise, Liberty, etc., works out to 100-200 calories per dollar when you do the math, and those calories are mostly sugar. Plus the food has to be rehydrated. It is a scam. Check out some of my prior work where I discuss common store bought foods that are higher quality and much much better value, and under the same storage conditions they will keep just as long, even indefinitely. The Mormons also have a pretty huge deal in pre-canned food so check that out as well.

At this point I know that there are thousands of you out there who have followed this column and who already way ahead of the Faraday cage fools. Money is an issue for everyone when it comes to this stuff, so I’m trying to focus on how to build resources for the least cost. Filling jars 2/3rds full, for example, is really hard when you are trying to stretch resources, so that is why I showed you my full path to figure this particular idea out.

That automatic can sealer is also a killer deal for the more advanced among you who are part of a group of people building resources together. LDS used to offer lender can sealers, and you used to be able to go to their pantries and do your own canning. Most people don’t know that the Mormons have been prepping for decades. It is part of the LDS doctrine to keep a year of survival food in your home, though I guess they reduced it to 3 months as the economy has hit bottom. I doubt this is due to religious reasons. Since 1971 when Nixon took us off the gold standard any student of history can tell you that we are headed for an eventual crash.

Is that crash imminent? This time of years people always seem to think it is, but who knows. This whole Trump thing is dangerous, because I know for a fact that he is a 911 truther, and now the Russians are putting nukes on their European borders. One some single day in the future, it is going to get really ugly really fast. If you start today, or you started two years ago, you are early, but the in the grand scope of history even 30 years ago won’t seem too early. It is coming. One day late you do not want to be.

This is my bulk recipe from the video:

1 Gallon Unsulfured Molasses
16 Cups Medium Rye Flour
16 Cups Walmart All Purpose Flour
16 Cups Walmart Corn Flour
2 Gallons Milk (Soured Milk, Buttermilk)
16 teaspoons Baking Powder
16 teaspoons Baking Soda
16 teaspoons Salt
16 teaspoons Allspice (Pumpkin Pie Spice)
16 teaspoons Vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients in 5/6 gallon bucket.
Add wet ingredients.
Mix until blended.
Fill canning jars 2/3rds full.
Tighten rings to finger tight.
Pressure can at 15 lbs.@sea level 100 mins.*
(*Note that this is just an experiment. Try at your own risk.)

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