Spices From Around The World: Cinnamon
Cinnamon is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon is available in either its whole quill form (cinnamon sticks) or as ground powder. Cinnamon is native to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Malabar Coast of India and Burma.
There are approximately one hundred varieties of cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon and Chinese cinnamon are the leading varieties consumed. Ceylon cinnamon is also referred to as "true cinnamon", while the Chinese variety is known as "cassia." Both are relatively similar in characteristics and feature a fragrant, sweet and warm taste.
Cinnamon has been known from ancient times. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC, but those who report that it had come from China confuse it with cassia, a close relative.
The Bible makes specific mention of the spice many times, first when Moses is commanded to use both sweet cinnamon and cassia in the holy anointing oils. In Proverbs where the lover's bed is perfumed with myrrh, aloe, and cinnamon; and in Song of Solomon, a song describing the beauty of his beloved, cinnamon scents on her garments.
Cinnamon was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god; a fine inscription records the gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo in Greece. Its source was kept shrouded in mystery in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, in order to protect their monopoly as suppliers,.
How Cinnamon is Used
- In cooking. Use it in recipes that call for cinnamon powder. You can use store-bought cinnamon powder, but good cooks know store-bought only delivers only 10% of the power of freshly ground cinnamon. Besides, cinnamon sticks can be kept for a much longer time, as long as you keep it in cool dark place away from sunlight.
- Add to Coffee or Tea. Break a 3 inch Cinnamon stick and add to your tea of coffee with honey. It adds a wonderful taste and aroma. You break the Cinnamon sticks to bring out its flavor and aroma.
- Add to Curries. A stick of Cinnamon to Asian curries adds a warmth and depth to the dish, especially a beef or chicken curry.
- Powdered. In a spice blender, grind a few cinnamon sticks and use it in recipes that call for cinnamon powder.
Here are some recipes that use cinnamon; I hope you will give them a try.
Pork Chops with Cinnamon Apples
- 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Cooking spray
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 4 cups (1/2-inch) slices peeled Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Dash of salt
Combine first 3 ingredients, and sprinkle over the pork. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Remove the pork from pan. Cover and keep warm.
Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add apples and remaining ingredients, and cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Serve the apples with pork.
- 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 cups chopped peeled Rome apple (about 2 large)
- Cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350°.Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Combine 2 tablespoons cinnamon mixture and apple in a bowl, and stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.
Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife.
Note: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.
If you haven't done so already, why not add cinnamon to your spice cabinet?