Cinnamon is the second most used spice in the world, next to pepper. Its first earliest recorded use was in China around 2500 BC. It is found in the powder, chunk, and stick varieties. Cinnamon is harvested during the rainy season, and then dried in the sun. Today, there are approximately 100 species of cinnamon.
Cinnamon is the dried bark from the tropical evergreen tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum, commonly referred to as ceylon. It is found in Sri Lanka, India, the Seychelles, Madagascar, Brazil, and the Caribbean. It is the true cinnamon. It is characterized by complex flavors, and citrusy overtones. It became very popular for medicinal uses, so prices sky rocketed.
Instead, bark from a similar evergreen tree, C. cassia, replaced it. It is also referred to as Korinth cinnamon. There are three different varieties of Cassian cinnamon: Chinese cassia has a stronger, sweet, spicy flavor; Indonesian cassia is spicy and bitter; Vietnamese cassia is light and sweet, and is very intense, so only 2/3 if what’s needed should be used.
All these cinnamons share a common chemical compound, cinamaldhyde, which is its essential oil. The oils from all species are slightly different from each other. Powder and chunk varieties of cinnamon come from the lower bark of the tree, and the stick varieties come from the bark of the upper branches. Cinnamon oil comes from the pods of the tree.
Cinnamon has an affinity for sweets, lamb, and spicy dishes.
© 2014 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
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