Chances are good that if you were asked—out of the blue—to name a spice, your response would be cinnamon. An impetus for the earliest trade route expeditions and a staple in the modern spice rack, the long-standing prominence of this earthy rich, delicious seasoning is indisputable.
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of an evergreen in the bay laurel family (Lauraceae). As the bark is laid to dry in the sun, it curls into quills (cinnamon sticks). These quills are sorted for quality, and chips are produced by breaking up large quills with a machine. Most often, though, cinnamon is used in its ground form.
Widely employed in the fragrance and cosmetic industries, you'll find cinnamon in incense, dental products, makeup and perfumes. It's real claim to fame, of course, is in the kitchen.
Cooking with Cinnamon
The world's most popular baking spice, cinnamon's distinctive taste and aroma is enjoyed solo (think cinnamon rolls) and in combination with other warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice (in cakes, cookies and fruit crisps, breads and pies, puddings, ice cream—you name it!). It's also common in savory dishes—like soups, sauces, chutneys, curries, catsup, pickles, squash, potatoes, green beans, red beets, applesauce, vinegars, meat, fish and poultry glazes and marinades and grains. Try it in hot drinks like cider, coffee, tea, and cocoa, too.
Here are a few cinnamon-lover recipes—one sweet, one savory, and one very comforting beverage.
Poached Cinnamon Cheese Pears
This easy-to-make dessert looks—and tastes—fancy enough for any special celebration.
4 large pears
3/4 cup pear juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons golden raisins
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
3 tablespoons slivered almonds
Slice pears in half lengthwise and core. Place in a saucepan. In a small bowl combine juice, honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon stick, and raisins; pour over the pears. Cover and simmer about half an hour, until pears are just tender. Place pears on a serving platter. Blend together cream cheese, leftover cooking liquid, and cinnamon powder. Spoon some of the mixture atop the center of each pear, sprinkle with almonds, and serve.
Spicy Red Cabbage
Applesauce delicately sweetens this colorful, spicy side dish. Serve it along with meats or grains, and eat the leftovers cold as a salad, or drain and use it to make a spectacular Reuben sandwich.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
2 cups red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup applesauce (homemade or prepared)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat oil and sauté onions until golden. Add the ground spices and stir for just a few seconds. Add the cabbage and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the applesauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until cabbage is tender. Serve with plain yogurt, if desired.
Wrap your hands around a mug of this sweet yet earthy tea and stir with a cinnamon stick—it will ground you every time.
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon favorite green or black tea
1 teaspoon dried chamomile leaves
2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon cinnamon granules
2 cinnamon sticks (for stirring)
Pour boiling water over tea and chamomile leaves. Steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. Strain. Stir in honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon granules. Pour into two cups and add cinnamon stick stirrers. Serve hot or iced.
Ask the Experts
What's the difference between cinnamon and cassia?
While the names cinnamon and cassia are often used interchangeably—and the plants are related—there are botanical and practical differences. Cassia is reddish-brown and pungently sweet; it's grown primarily in China and the Indonesian islands. (The outer bark isn't removed during the harvesting of cassia.) True cinnamon, on the other hand, is buff-colored and mild; it generally comes from Sri Lanka (ancient Ceylon, from which it gets its name) and the Malabar Coast of India. Cinnamon is considered a more complex flavor, spicy rather than sweet, with woody undertones. Each holds its place in various ethnic cuisines and kitchens. Most of the powdered cinnamon sold in supermarkets today is cassia.
By the way, you can tell cinnamon sticks from cassia sticks by the way they curl: cinnamon sticks roll from only one side, but cassia sticks curl inward from both sides toward the center.
Which spice blends include cinnamon?
It depends on the cook developing the blend, of course, but because it complements so many foods and other spices, you can often find cinnamon in many spice blends, such as curry powder, garam masala, sambhar powder, and five spice powder. Baking blends like apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice, as well as many pickling blends, seafood boil blends, tea blends (like Chai), and mulling spice blends also rely upon cinnamon.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Our Indonesian cassia (Cinnamomum burmanii) — considered the most flavorful in the world — comes from Mt. Korintje in Sumatra, where the altitude contributes to the spice's intense, reddish-brown color and strong flavor.
In the mountainous regions of North Vietnam, farmers harvest Frontier's Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureirii) from trees that have matured at least 20 years. Its pungent aroma and rich flavor is the result of the high oil content; we purchase cinnamon cut from the base of the tree, where the highest concentration or oil is found.
Frontier also offers Cinnamomum verum, or "true cinnamon," from Sri Lanka.
Try Frontier's assortment of cinnamon powder, sticks of various lengths, chips