On a Farm in Indiana

Community Cookbooks & Steamed Brown Bread

By • November 3, 2011 • 20 Comments

This is the twelfth in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.

Tom's been gone pheasant-hunting! So today we're sharing another essay from his blog Bona Fide Farm Food (with new photos!)

community cookbooks

Having an eclectic collection of spiral bound church, community and group cookbooks can be a chore. You have this huge tote full of the things and it sets in the garage collecting dust and the dogs are always sniffing around it, the hound dog even goes so far as to sleep on it many nights, feet hang off the edge and her tongue dangling. Each winter you have to seal it like Fort Knox so the mice don’t take up residence and chew the pages. All this on top of the countless times you have moved it not only around the garage but from one house to another during a move.
    spiral-bound community cookbook
It is an obelisk full of soup can cookery for the most part and while you know you will never cook out of them you can’t separate yourself from them either, it would be a painful divorce. With every spring comes the we-can-make-this-relationship-work ritual and you crack open the tote only to be slapped in the face with grandma perfume and mothballs. You are going to give it every effort though and you lovingly turn each page as if it is the first time you have ever seen countless green Jell-O apple celery salad molds and salmon loaves. 
   
The books are repetitive of one another and at one point it's as if you don’t know who this person is anymore. Then just when you are about ready to give up and take the tote to the dumpster, it does something nice. Right there, between the mushroom soup baked pork chops and the canned baked beans loaded with brown sugar and ketchup is the sparkle you used to see, a lone recipe with merit, some real class, the one you used to take to the dance.
   
You think about bringing the whole tote into the house but you have gone that route before only to have it take up residence at the kitchen table like a long lost cousin. So, you put the cover back on the tote and only bring in the one book knowing it will be months before you take it back to the garage and in a fit of nostalgia look through some more of these relics hoping to put a little spark back into the relationship again.

One of my all time favorites is a book from a now nonexistent town in Missouri named Pennytown. It was an African-American town that at some point was no more. The residents still stayed in touch and many years later created a cookbook in memory of what once was. I was fortunate enough to take a picture of the ladies who created the book and the newspaper did a story as well. As a result I gave the ladies a copy of their picture and in return they gave me a cookbook.

steamed brown bread  cans

Steamed Brown Bread

This brown bread was created after a recipe in my mother's hometown church and their fundraiser cookbook. What kind of vessel you ultimately steam the bread in is up to you. Soup cans work great and this recipe would fill two cans. You could also use larger cans but as with everything baking times will change and so will the ingredient amounts so adjust accordingly. I find this goes great with cured meats like corned beef, brined pork and ham, is a great bread for afternoon tea and is good with hearty soups too.

Makes eight 3/4-inch slices

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 2.3 oz.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 2.3 oz
1/2 cup fine grind corn meal, 3 oz.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces unsulfered molasses
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins
unsalted butter for greasing cans
salted pasture butter for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more Tom? See last week's dispatch: What I Know About Eggs


Comments (20)

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Hilary_sp1

over 2 years ago Hilarybee

I have quite few community cookbooks, mostly ones I inherited from my grandmother-in-law and a few I stole from my parents. I always check secondhand stores in hopes I'll find a really good one.
My favorite is a family book, containing gma-in-laws cherished "top secret" recipes. She even had "Top Secret" stamped on the cover and for "Brownings Only" written on the inside. Good thing I changed my name. There are quite a few really good recipes in that one.

Hilary_sp1

over 2 years ago Hilarybee

I have quite few community cookbooks, mostly ones I inherited from my grandmother-in-law and a few I stole from my parents. I always check secondhand stores in hopes I'll find a really good one.
My favorite is a family book, containing gma-in-laws cherished "top secret" recipes. She even had "Top Secret" stamped on the cover and for "Brownings Only" written on the inside. Good thing I changed my name.

Hilary_sp1

over 2 years ago Hilarybee

I have quite few community cookbooks, mostly ones I inherited from my grandmother-in-law and a few I stole from my parents. I always check secondhand stores in hopes I'll find a really good one.
My favorite is a family book, containing gma-in-laws cherished "top secret" recipes. She even had "Top Secret" stamped on the cover and for "Brownings Only" written on the inside. Good thing I changed my name.

Birthday_2012

over 2 years ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

I have a cache of community cookbooks also. They live in the house but similarly I find myself looking at them and wondering why I hang on to them some days. But they also include books from my childhood, fundraisers for Appleton High School West and the American Association of University Women that my mom belonged to, etc. AND they have the occasional irresistible recipe. My deepest darkest culinary secret is that I am still seeking the jello mini marshmallow fruit cocktail church potluck dish of my childhood and that alone is enough to keep me collecting and poring through community cookbooks. I am beginning to think that this is a dish that tasted different to me when I was a child. The recipes don't look right.

Kg_in_evanston_cropped

over 2 years ago Fairmount_market

I have a couple of treasured spiral bound cookbooks, one from my grandfather-in-law's church, full of authentic Scandinavian recipes, and another from a small town I visited on my honeymoon. Even if the recipes are hit or miss, these cookbooks always have a few treasures and provide vivid recollections of places. I can't wait to try this steamed bread recipe.

Cakes

over 2 years ago Bevi

My dear friend made a wonderful steamed brown bread. I will share this recipe with her.

Buddhacat

over 2 years ago SKK

So is the Seattle Library! How cool

Buddhacat

over 2 years ago SKK

My 23 year old daughter loves these spiral bound cookbooks and has been collecting them for years. She has a huge box of them. A fun Food52 competion would be "Favorite Recipe from Spiral Bound Cookbooks" and give the cook and cookbook the credit!

Ozoz_profile

over 2 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

I peeked into the cupboards in our new house, despairing because all my cookbooks are now upstairs in the Study.....where no respectable cookbooks should be. I happened upon one of the 'church' cookbooks and the green cover and thick black rings holding loads of deliciousness stared me back in the face. Daring me to leave it be. Which I did! This bread looks wonderful - up my alley and will be made. As soon as I figure out how to whip up whole wheat pastry flour. I love the images your writing evokes.

Dsc00426

over 2 years ago vvvanessa

do you have that photo of the women who created the book? i would love to see it.

i recently came across a trove of these books in a thrift store and was tempted to buy them all but restrained myself and got only five (i think i spent about $2.50). i promised myself not to look for them again because i'll want to take them all. they are, like a lot of cookbooks, what i want to read when i'm all comfy in bed. it's history, cultural anthropology, and food writing all rolled into one-- a big score in my eyes.

Dsc00426

over 2 years ago vvvanessa

do you have that photo of the women who created the book? i would love to see it.

i recently came across a trove of these books in a thrift store and was tempted to buy them all but restrained myself and got only five (i think i spent about $2.50). i promised myself not to look for them again because i'll want to take them all. they are, like a lot of cookbooks, what i want to read when i'm all comfy in bed. it's history, cultural anthropology, and food writing all rolled into one-- a big score in my eyes.

Steve_dunn02

over 2 years ago Oui, Chef

B&M Brown Bread, sliced from the can and toasted was one of my favorite foods growing up. A couple of slices dripping with melted butter alongside a few grilled hot dogs was my idea of heaven. I will definitely be giving this recipe a try!

Fb

over 2 years ago BlueKaleRoad

Steamed brown bread is wonderful - growing up we ate a version with rye flour in it. I've collected quite a few of those spiral bound community cookbooks...you can definitely find some treasures tucked away in them.

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over 2 years ago KosherInDetroit

If you seriously are worried about your books collecting dust, you can always donate them to a library. The Janice Bluestein Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan is really working towards creating a comprehensive collection of culinary americana, with a large focus on charity cookbooks and how they have shaped and developed communities.

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over 2 years ago KosherInDetroit

If you seriously are worried about your books collecting dust, you can always donate them to a library. The Janice Bluestein Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan is really working towards creating a comprehensive collection of culinary americana, with a large focus on charity cookbooks and how they have shaped and developed communities.

Default-small

over 2 years ago KosherInDetroit

If you seriously are worried about your books collecting dust, you can always donate them to a library. The Janice Bluestein Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan is really working towards creating a comprehensive collection of culinary americana, with a large focus on charity cookbooks and how they have shaped and developed communities.

Default-small

over 2 years ago KosherInDetroit

If you seriously are worried about your books collecting dust, you can always donate them to a library. The Janice Bluestein Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan is really working towards creating a comprehensive collection of culinary americana, with a large focus on charity cookbooks and how they have shaped and developed communities.

Potofbeans

over 2 years ago china millman

I love steamed brown bread - sliced thin, toasted and spread with cream cheese, it might be the most delicious breakfast in the world. I usually use Laurie Colwin's recipe, but this one looks great as well.

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over 2 years ago Panfusine

this sounds fabulous!.. I'll probably use one of those Stainless steel canisters with the fitting lids that is so conveniently mandatory in most semi-respectable South Indian Kitchens, got plenty of them lying around! just the thought of smearing it with a pat of fresh salted butter.. mmmm..

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over 2 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hey Tom. It was just this morning that I was flipping through the Touro Synagogue (New Orleans) spiral bound cookbook that my mother gave me, I guess as a bridal shower gift, when I was married in 1983. Some of my granny's recipes are in it. Brown bread with good butter sounds really good right about now.