The inner bark of several species of the Cinnamomum tree which is a member of the Laurel family is commonly known as cinnamon. However, there are two main types which are often commercially blended to form this favorite spice which buoys spirits and revives childhood memories. True cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon (C. verum or C. zeylanicum) is native to Sri Lanka and southern India and has a more delicate, complex, sweet and warm flavor which is superior for sweet dishes. The sticks look like quills with a single tube and ground true cinnamon has a tan color. False cinnamon or Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia, C. burmanii or C. loureirii) is native to Vietnam and the eastern Himalayas and has a hotter and slightly bitter taste which is more assertive in long-cooked foods. The sticks are rolled from both sides like scrolls and ground false cinnamon is a reddish brown and has a stronger scent.
One of the oldest spices known to man, cinnamon was first used primarily in medicines, perfumes, ointments and embalming preparations. In the ancient world, cinnamon was also more precious than gold. By the Middle Ages, however, it had become an ingredient in two-thirds of the recipes in the Middle East and Europe where it helped to bridge the combinations of meat and fruit such as mince pies. The search for a cheaper source led to the discovery of the New World, since the Dutch had a monopoly and therefore trees were not actively cultivated until 1770. Under cultivation, the shoots are continually cropped almost to ground level, resulting is a low, dense bush with thin leafy branches. After the bark is peeled off the tree it is left to dry and ferment for 24 hours, then the outer layer is scraped off and the inner bark is left to curl as it dries.
Possibly the most common baking spice, cinnamon marries well with both sweet and savory dishes. Today, cinnamon can be found in nearly every cuisine from Chinese five-spice and Indian curries to Mexican hot chocolate. Traditionally used in gingerbread, mulled wine and fruit desserts, it is also essential to peppery blends such as garam masala, moles and chili powders. It can also be used as a dry rub for meat and poultry, in pickling, to enhance the taste of vegetables and as a perfect partner for chocolate. Cinnamon is a great addition to coffee, hot chocolate and brewed as a tea. It’s naturally sweet taste allows elimination of a quarter of the sugar in recipes and mellows the tartness of fruits. Cinnamon’s spicy taste comes from cinnamaldehyde which is both a sedative and analgesic and reduces blood pressure. It accelerates the digestion of fats and the breakdown of proteins, may inhibit ulcer formation and the growth of several strains of bacteria and certain molds, plus it is an up and coming treatment for diabetes, weight control and hypoglycemia.
Cinnamon sticks have a longer shelf life than ground,
but both will retain flavor longer if stored in glass containers
in a cool, dark location or they may be frozen
SPICY CHOCOLATE BEEF STEW
2lbs beef, cubed
1tsp ground cinnamon
4 whole cloves
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 c walnuts, whole
1/4 c walnuts, chopped coarsely
1 chopped onion
1 chili pepper, seeded, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
11/2Tbs cocoa powder
1 can diced tomatoes
11/4 cups beef stock
In large skillet, brown the beef cubes in a little hot oil then place in crockpot. Add cinnamon and cloves to pan and stir, then add sliced carrots and cook one minute. Blend the walnuts, onion, chili pepper, garlic, raisins, cocoa powder and tomatoes and then add to skillet and let simmer 5 minutes. .Slowly add stock, then pour over the browned beef cubes in crockpot. Cook on low for 6 hours or until the meat is tender.
BROILED SPICED PEACHES
1 (28 ounce) can peach halves
1/4 c flour
1Tbs granulated sugar
Drain the peach halves and pat dry. Mix the flour, sugar and the cinnamon together then coat peach halves in the mixture and spray with cooking spray to moisten. Just before serving broil in oven just until crispy. (About 3-4 minutes). You can also use fresh peeled peaches that have been halved with the pit removed.
See, I have given you every herb that yields seed
which is on the face of all the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
to you it shall be for food.”