Cinnamon, with its heady, woody scent that perfumes the air when sprinkled on French Toast and Apple Pie was once more prized than silver!
(kayu manis), as cinnamon is known in Indonesia, was once the most expensive spice in the world competing with black pepper for that distinction.
The word cinnamon is derived from the Hebrew and Arabic term amomon or the Greek kinnámōmon, meaning fragrant spice plant. In some countries of South Asia and the Middle East it is referred to as dalchini or darchini, which means Chinese wood (dar = wood).
Cinnamon, usually sold as thin dried quills or rolls, is the inner bark of a tree of the laurel family. The bark is peeled off with long curved knives into thin long strips and left to ferment for 24 hours. Left to dry in the sun for a few days, it curls up into the familiar light coloured quills or rolls. While many varieties of cinnamon grow in India, the West Indes and South America, the best cinnamon is found in Sri Lanka.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum or zeylanicum) is often confused with cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), its less distinguished cousin. Sometimes called Chinese cassia, or false cinnamon, cassia is as ancient as cinnamon, but lacks its delicate aroma and flavour.
Cassia is sold as hard strips of bark. It grows widely in China and Indonesia and together with real cinnamon travelled with other spices and aromatics on the spice route from
China to the Middle East. Arab traders were responsible for introducing both spices to the Middle East and then Europe, where they soon became prized ingredients in those cuisines with only the wealthy able to afford the exotic spice.
Today, both cinnamon and cassia are freely available and important ingredients in everyday Arabian spice mixes such as Bahraat and Ras El Hanout, dishes such as tagines, kebabs and koftehs, and sweets like semolina and rice puddings, and cakes.
In Europe and England cinnamon flavours pies, breads and desserts such as poached fruit, steamed fruit puddings, fruit cakes, fruit pies (think apple pie) and breads. Mexican and Caribbean food is also flavoured liberally with cinnamon.
Cinnamon adds a deliciously sweet, spicy note to warm drinks like hot chocolate and winter beverages. Three ingredients that have a special affinity for cinnamon are honey, apples and chocolate. Sprinkle a dusting of cinnamon on any dessert that contains any of these three ingredients and you have a winner!
– CookeryPlus Team