Cinnamon is a wonderful spice that all cooks know and love. It is a very old spice and is referenced in the Bible several times. It comes from the bark of trees that grow in places like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil. The island nation of Indonesia includes the famous Spice Islands, a.k.a. Maluku Islands. There are 4 varieties of cinnamon trees, (genus Cinnamomum) in the Laural (Lauraceae) family, that are used for culinary purposes. Its flavor and aroma comes from cinnamonaldehyde, an essential oil of the bark.
- Ceylon Cinnamon is softer, sweeter and less pungent than Cassia which can be quite sharp. The Ceylon variety is considered the true cinnamon and is from Sri Lanka.
- Indonesian Korintje Cassia has a stronger flavor than Ceylon cinnamon, with a sharp, bitter edge that goes well with coffee. As the flavor most Americans grew up with, it’s often called the “regular” cinnamon.
- Chinese Tung Hing Cassia is sweeter than the Indonesian, with a mild depth that blends beautifully into other flavors. It’s often the preferred cinnamon for baking.
- Saigon Cassia, from Vietnam, is much stronger than the others, with a sweet spicy heat like red-hot candies.
To prepare cinnamon, the bark of the tree is dried and rolled into cinnamon sticks or quills. These quills can be used whole or powdered in cooking. Ceylon cinnamon quills can easily be broken by hand, while those of Cassia are rock hard and impossible to break. There are several recipes on this site that use cinnamon. Two of the newest are the quintessential cinnamon cookie, Snickerdoodles, and a south of the border treat, Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Cinnamon is also used for medicinal purposes, including treatments for diabetes, indigestion and poor circulation. It is also known for lowering bad cholestrol (LDL).
In the world of cosmetics, it is most used in the perfume industry and as a flavoring for tooth paste and mouthwash. It can be used as a bronzing powder, although it may act as a skin irritant for some. Here an easy recipe if you care to try it!
Homemade Bronzing Powder
2 Tbs. Cinnamon
3 tsp. Cornstarch
Mix together in a small bowl with a whisk. Store in a sealable container. That’s it!