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Cinnamon Savvy

Recipes, uses and other info (including the difference between cinnamon and cassia) about this popular baking spice.

What's the difference between cinnamon and cassia?

chipotlesWhile 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, the Indonesian islands and Vietnam. (The outer bark isn't removed during the harvesting of cassia.) True cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), 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. Ceylon 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.

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 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.

Frontier's Cinnamon

Here's a summary of the types of cinnamon we offer:

Vietnamese (Cinnamomum loureirii)

Frontier's Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureirii) is harvested in the mountainous regions of North Vietnam 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 of oil is found. Formally known as Saigon cinnamon, this special variety has rebounded in popularity in the U.S. following a long absence. Compared to Indonesian types, Vietnamese cinnamon has a distinctly sweet flavor and an exceptionally high volatile oil content. Gourmet cooks rate it as the highest quality cinnamon in the world.

Chinese (Cinnamomum aromaticum)

Chinese cinnamon posseses characteristics similar to those of Vietnamese cinnamon, but with a less intense flavor. In China, the bark is typically peeled from the trees starting at 10 years of age and continuing as long as 30 years.

Ceylon (Cinnamomum verum)

We also offer Cinnamomum verum, or "true cinnamon," from Sri Lanka. This cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka (though grown in India, the East and West Indies, and Central America). The cultivated variety grows 8 to 10 feet and resembles a shrub rather than a tree. Most of the product in the U.S. is sold in the stick form.

Korintje (Cinnamomum burmanii)

The most commonly found cinnamon in American kitchens is Indonesian cassia. It is sourced from higher elevations and is harvested a bit earlier than Chinese and Vietnamese cinnamons. Korintje translates as “thick quill” and is judged for quality based on the part of the tree that is harvested (trunk vs. branch) and on the length of the bark peeled from the tree. 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.

Try Frontier's assortment of cinnamon powder, sticks of various lengths, chips and granules.

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. But 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

chipotlesThis 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

chipotlesApplesauce 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.

Cinnamon Soother

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.

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