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.
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 local honey
1 teaspoon Frontier Fair Trade-certified organic vanilla extract
1 Frontier organic cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons golden raisins
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon Frontier organic 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.
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 Frontier organic green or black tea
1 teaspoon dried Frontier chamomile leaves
2 teaspoons local honey (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon Frontier organic cinnamon granules
2 Frontier organic 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.
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.
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. 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.
By the way, you can tell Ceylon cinnamon sticks from cassia cinnamon sticks by the way they curl: cinnamon sticks roll from only one side, but cassia sticks curl inward from both sides toward the center.
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