Information about cinnamon and cinnamon recipe
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Cinnamon (Ceylon cinnamon)
and Cassia (Chinese cinnamon), are both derived from the bark of an evergreen
tree. The difference between them
is that Cassia has a more robust flavour however to all intents and purposes,
either can be substituted for the other. The characteristic rich, warm
and sweet fragrance makes it one of the most evocative of spices and a much used
ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.
and History of cinnamon
Ceylon Cinnamon belongs to
the family Lauraceae (laurel family) and is widely grown in South America and
the West Indies, whilst Cassia (Cinnamomum
cassia) is grown in China, Indochina, Indonesia, the Indies, and Central
America . Cinnamon and Cassia can be differentiated by the way the bark forms:
cinnamon bark forms tightly-rolled quills whilst cassia forms into more loosely
rolled, irregular strips. Both are commonly referred to cinnamon sticks.
Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum
zeylanicum) is an ancient spice. It is mentioned Chinese writings which date
back to 2800 B.C. and is also mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. Not
only was it used in cooking,
but also in various medicinal preparations and during the embalming
process in Ancient Egypt. Always considered a precious commodity, by the 1st
century A.D. writings referred to 350
grams of cinnamon being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver and so
prized was it, that the Roman emperor Nero who murdered his wife,
showed the extent of his (supposed) remorse by burning a year's supply
of Cinnamon on her funeral pyre.
In medieval Europe and North
Africa, it was already being used
in many recipes, especially “one pot” dishes which contained both meat and
fruit and by the late 15th Century Europeans also used it to disguise the smell
and taste of old meat. Up until
this period, cinnamon was mainly obtained through trade with Egypt.
However, during the 16th and 17th centuries the Portuguese, Dutch,
French and English in turn fought for control of the Cinnamon in Ceylon (Sri
Lanka) in order to make fortunes, much like they did with Nutmeg and mace. Such
was their intent, that when the Dutch learned of a source of cinnamon along the
coast of India, they coerced the local king to destroy it all so they could keep
their monopoly on this exotic spice.
However by the early
19th century, enough trees had been planted outside of the island that
the downfall of the cinnamon monopoly begun,
with trees thriving in countries such as Java, Sumatra, Mauritius and
Cinnamon tree is an evergreen which can grow up to 7m (56 ft) in its natural
state although trees in cultivated plantations are more often grown as bushes,
no taller than 3 m (10 ft), as the stems are continually cut back to produce new
stems for bark. It thrives best in a
hot, wet tropical climate at low
altitude and is usually ready to harvest after 3 years.
The plant is harvested during
the wet season because the rains
facilitate the peeling of the bark. Harvesting involves the removal of the stems
then after 24 hours drying, the outer bark and inner lining are scraped off. The
naturally curled pieces of peeled bark (quills) are placed one inside the other
to make long 'compound quills'. The best quills are placed on the outside and
broken and smaller pieces in the centre. These left in the shade to dry
completely and to prevent warping. The
long quills are then cut into smaller lengths and graded according to thickness,
aroma and appearance. The quills can then be ground or processed into oil for
say that true (Ceylon) Cinnamon should be for sweets and delicate dishes and
Cassia for savoury dishes and stewed fruits.
However, as many of us have probably been using commercially ground
cinnamon which is sometimes a mixture of cassia and cinnamon, we aren’t going to
start a “snobby” fad here.
Most of the cuisines from the
areas where cinnamon grows features it heavily in savoury dishes such as moles,
curries, roasted meats, vegetable and rice dishes, as does Arabic and North
African cuisines – tagines are an excellent example. It’s also contained in spices mixes such as the Indian
Garam Masala, the Moroccan Ras el
Hanout and the Chinese Five spice.