Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cinnamon Fast Facts

The inviting scent of cinnamon makes me think of falling Autumn leaves, snuggling in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night, and homemade cookies and other baked treats. Cinnamon is a versatile spice, adding its warm, zippy flavor to sweet and savory dishes in many cuisines. I love cinnamon and often add a small piece of cinnamon stick to my hot cider or to hot tea while it brews, or add small chips of cinnamon stick to my coffee grinder when I grind coffee beans. I sprinkle ground cinnamon on buttered toast (either with or without sprinkling on some sugar as well) and stir it into hot oatmeal. Here are some fast facts about one of my favorite zesty spices.

*Most ground cinnamon (and some stick cinnamon) sold in the US is actually the ground bark of the evergreen Cinnamomum burmannii, also known as "Indonesian Cinnamon". This is the cheapest form of cinnamon and has the lowest essential oil content.

*Most stick cinnamon sold in the US is actually the bark of the Cassia tree, and not "true" cinnamon. Cassia (Cinnamomum aromaticum, C. Cassia) is also an evergreen, and it grows in southeast Asia including parts of China, India, Bangladesh and Viet Nam. Cassia bark is very thick, and is usually sold in large quills or broken pieces.

*True cinnamon, Cinnamomum verum, is a small evergreen tree found in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and is sometimes called "Ceylon cinnamon." True cinnamon is made with the thinner inner bark, resulting in less dense, tighter quills when in stick form. True cinnamon is rare in the US, and usually only found in high-end or gourmet markets.

*True Cinnamon is light brown or buff in color, and has a mildly sweet, subtly complex and gently "hot-aromatic" flavor which is best for sweets and desserts.

*Cassia and Indonesian Cinnamon are a much darker, reddish brown color, and their flavor is much more pronounced and pungent, sometimes characterized as bittersweet or harsh with a sharper bite, making it better for savory dishes rather than delicate desserts.

*Mexico is the number one importer of true cinnamon, using it in chocolate as well as in savory dishes like mole. England also uses true cinnamon much more widely than the US.

*In the Middle East, cinnamon is often used in savory chicken and lamb dishes. It's also used in many Indian savory dishes, and is featured in Persian cuisine including Persian curry powder.

*Cinnamon is touted for various health benefits: It is high in antioxidants, and its essential oil has antimicrobial properties. Cassia cinnamon has been shown in some studies to help control blood sugar in diabetics. Cinnamon also freshens the breath, and traditionally has been used to treat toothaches!

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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