Cinnamon - Uses and Tips
Cinnamon – (Cinnamomum Zelanicum) was known to the Chinese as long as 2,500 BC and in its early history was more precious than gold. It was a valuable commodity in ancient Arabia where priests alone had the right to collect it. The first bundle was offered to the sun and was then used to kindle the sacred fire on the altar where the high priest was to offer sacrifice.
The ancient Egyptians used cinnamon for embalming and in witchcraft and in 1485 BC Queen Hatshesput is reported as dispatching rigged ships to the land of Punt (Somalia) to bring back frankincense, cinnamon, baboons, dogs and myrrh.
First documented as the product of Ceylon in 1275, cinnamon was to play a vital role in bringing the East into contact with Europe. Up until that time all spices were supposed to have come from the Garden of Eden by way of the Euphrates, “a river which floweth from paradise."
When the Portuguese landed in Ceylon in 1500 they found cinnamon growing in the wild and by 1536 they were occupying the country mainly to obtain supplies of the spice. The King of Ceylon was forced to pay to the Portuguese an annual tribute of 25,000 pounds of cinnamon bark! In 1796 Ceylon passed into British hands and cinnamon became a monopoly of the British East India Company and so remained until 1833.
Legend says. . .
One of the many legends concerning cinnamon says that it was gathered from the nest of the phoenix, miraculous bird of ancient fable, that collected cinnamon, spikenard and myrrh to fuel the magic fire in which it would cremate itself and from which it would be reborn.
True cinnamon is indigenous to Sri Lanka, it is the bark of a bushy evergreen tree of the Laurel family, the cinnamon garden in Sri Lanka lie on the coastal plains south of Colombo.
Today, the spice is cultivated in Java, Burma South America and the West Indies.
One acre will yield between 100 and 150 lb (45-67.5 kg) tick cinnamon. The spice consists of the inner bark, the shoots are pooled, then rubbed to loosen the bark which is split and peeled.
The peels are then telescoped into one another to form a quill about 42 inches (1 metre) long, before being dried and bleached ready for marketing.
Cinnamon has a warm agreeably sweet , woody aroma that is delicate yet intense, the taste is fragrant and warm with hints of clove and citrus.
Ground cinnamon is immediately aromatic. Quills tend to hide their aromatic properties until broken or cooked in liquid.
Cinnamon combines well with :
Cardamom, cloves, coriander seed, cumin, ginger, mastic, nutmeg and mace, tamarind and turmeric.
Other Uses of Cinnamon
- Cinnamon is an antiseptic spice and relieves flatulence and nausea. It was a treatment for diarrhea and internal bleeding and has been given as a sedative for women in labour.
- The ancient Greeks prescribed cinnamon in hot rum as a cure for a cold, unbeatable remedy even today.
- The spice is also used to flavor liqueurs and confectionery, soaps and toothpastes.
- The oil it contains is eugenol, an effective breath-freshener, so you can chew a stick of cinnamon for instant sweet breath.
- Cinnamon ‘s subtle flavor is well suited to all manner of desserts and spiced breads and cakes.
- It combines particularly well with chocolate, delicious in fruit puddings.
- Use it in apple pie or with baked apples with bananas fried in butter and flavoured with rum and in red wine used for poaching pears.
- Rice pudding is transformed with the addition of cinnamon and cinnamon ice cream is Epicurean.
- It is also makes an excellent flavouring for many meat and vegetable dishes in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking.
- In Mexico they are used cinnamon to flavor coffee and they are used to stir mugs of steaming hot chocolate.
- In Asia, they are used in spicy meat dishes, often with star anise with which cinnamon has an affinity.
Indonesian cooks use cinnamon in their famous spiced beef and coconut milk stew, Rendang.
How to make cinnamon toast
- Toast bread on one side
- Then butter the uncooked side
- Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and
- Toast until brown
Tips in buying and storing
Ground cinnamon – the paler its colour the finer its quality – it is widely available, but it loses its flavor quite quickly so buy in small amounts.
Whole quills - are available from spice merchants, delicatessens and some supermarkets. They keep their aroma for 2-3 years if store in an airtight container.
Pale brown or tan strips of dried bark are rolled one into another to form long, slender ,smooth quills.