Source: Cinnamon - Patricia G. Solley, 1997 (To go there: )
Cinnamon is surely the exotic spice of the ages. Used since biblical times as a perfume and as incense, it was originally imported into Egypt and Judea by the Phoenicians.
Native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and India, it is actually the inner bark of a tropical ever-green tree that can grow to a height of 35 feet. After the bark is peeled from the tree, it is left to dry and ferment for a day, then the outer bark is scraped away. As the inner bark dries, it curls into its characteristic single quill. Ceylon (or true) cinnamon is tan colored with a mildly sweet flavor.
Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)--a close relative native to Malaysia and Indonesia has FDA approval to be sold in the United States as cinnamon. It is dark, reddish-brown and has a stronger, slightly bittersweet flavor. When its inner bark dries, it curls from both ends, into scrolls.
Both true cinnamon and cassia have powerfully antiseptic essential oils (think about toothpaste) help to preserve food.
CINNAMON, CEYLON CINNAMON, SRI LANKA CINNAMON - extracted from the pages of Gernot Katzer - http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/index.html
Cinnamomum zeylanicum originates from the island Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), southeast of India. Related cinnamon species are found in Indonesia, Vietnam and China.
Cinnamon is an ancient spice mentioned several times in the Old Testament, although only Chinese cinnamon (cassia) has been known in the West until the 16th century. Compared to the Chinese species, Ceylon cinnamon has a more delicate aroma and is the dominating quality on the Western market.
See Indonesian cinnamon for a comparison of different cinnamon species. See also cassia for usage of cinnamon in Chinese cuisine and Vietnamese cinnamon for cinnamon usage in Vietnam.
Since Ceylon cinnamon is native in South Asia, it is not surprising that the cuisine of Sri Lanka and India make heavy use of it. It is equally suited for the fiery beef curries of Sri Lanka and the subtle, fragrant rice dishes (biriyanis) of the Emperial North Indian cuisine. It is also widely in use for flavouring tea. Cinnamon is also popular in all regions where Persian or Arab influence is felt: Near and Middle East, the Arab peninsular and Northern Africa, from Morocco to Ethiopia.
Although cinnamon was very popular in Europe in the 16th to 18th centuries, is importance is now rather shrunken: the main application for cinnamon in Western cooking are several kinds of desserts; stewed fruits, for instance, are usually flavoured with a mixture of cloves and cinnamon. Cinnamon is, however, only rarely tried for spicy dishes.
In India, cinnamon is applied as a whole; the bark pieces are fried in hot oil until they unroll (this is important to release the fragrance); then, temperature is quenched by adding other components, like tomatoes, onions or yoghurt (see onions and black cumin for further details). The cinnamon chunks may be removed before serving, but are more frequently kept as a fragrant decoration.
In most other countries, powdered cinnamon is preferred. The powder should be added shortly before serving, as it becomes slightly bitter after some time of cooking. Powdered cinnamon is contained in several spice mixtures, like North Indian garam masala, curry powder and Arabic baharat. African spice mixtures in Arabic style are Moroccan ras el hanout, Tunisian gâlat dagga and berebere, an Ethiopian spice mixture with somewhat Indian character. Cinnamon bark is, furthermore, an optional ingredient for the classical French mixture quatre épices. For Chinese five spice powder see cassia. Cinnamon has become popular in México too.
The so-called "cinnamon buds" are the unripe fruits harvested shortly after the blossom; in appearance, they are similar to cloves. These buds are less aromatic than the bark; their odour is, however, rather interesting: mild, pure and sweet. To release their fragrance, they must be finely ground. Their usage as a spice has only regional importance in China (there obtained from the cassia tree) and India (region Kutch in the union state Gujrat). I cannot explain why, but spice vendors tend to confuse cinnamon buds with cubeb pepper berries, which look and taste totally different.
Cinnamon and cassia are two of the oldest known spices. The ancient Egyptians used them for both cosmetics and embalming. As early as 1500 b.c., the Egyptians sent buying expeditions to present-day Somalia because it was near ancient spice-trading sea routes. Cassia and cinnamon grow in China and Southeast Asia. The true sources of cinnamon and cassia were once a mystery. The Arab traders who supplied the Greeks and Romans invented fables about the geographic origins and gathering of cinnamon and cassia so their role as middlemen in the trade would not be disturbed. Cinnamon was one of the first spices to be sought in 15th- and 16th-century European explorations. Indirectly, it led to the discovery of America.
Also called CHINESE CINNAMON, spice consisting of the aromatic bark of the Cinnamomum cassia plant of the family Lauraceae. Similar to true cinnamon, cassia bark has a more pungent, less delicate flavour and is thicker than cinnamon bark. It contains from 1 to 2 percent oil of cassia, a volatile oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde. Cassia bark is used as a flavouring in cooking and particularly in liqueurs and chocolate. Southern Europeans prefer it to cinnamon, but, in North America, ground cinnamon is sold without distinction as to the species from which the bark is obtained.
Cassia bark is peeled from stems and branches and set aside to dry. Some varieties are scraped. While drying, the bark curls into quills. The colour varies from light reddish brown for the thin, scraped bark to gray for the thick, unscraped bark. Ground cassia is reddish brown in colour. Cassia from China is less aromatic than that from Vietnam and Indonesia. Cassia from all three countries has a sweet, aromatic, and pungent flavour. Vietnamese, or Saigon, cassia is particularly highly esteemed.
Cassia buds, the dried, unripe fruits of Cinnamomum cassia and Cinnamomum loureirii, have a cinnamon-like aroma and a warm, sweet, pungent taste akin to that of cassia bark. The whole buds are added to foods for flavouring. The brown, immature fruit is snugly held in a cuplike, hard, wrinkled, grayish-brown calyx (the whole commonly called a bud) varying in size but ordinarily 0.4 inch (11 millimetres) long, including the calyx tube; the upper part of the bud may be about 0.25 in. in diameter.
Confusion sometimes arises with another group of plants because Cassia is the generic name of an extensive genus of leguminous plants, which, in addition to various other medicinal products, is the source of senna (q.v.) leaves.
(species Cinnamomum zeylanicum), bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family (Lauraceae) native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the neighbouring Malabar Coast of India, and Myanmar (Burma) and also cultivated in South America and the West Indies for the spice consisting of its dried inner bark. The spice is light brown in colour and has a delicately fragrant aroma and warm, sweet flavour. Cinnamon was once more valuable than gold. In Egypt it was sought for embalming and witchcraft; in medieval Europe for religious rites and as a flavouring. Later it was the most profitable spice in the Dutch East India Company trade. In modern times, cinnamon is used to flavour a variety of foods, from confections to curries; in Europe and the United States it is especially popular in bakery goods.
The Sri Lanka cultivator harvests his main crop in the wet season, cutting the shoots close to the ground. In processing, the shoots are first scraped with a semicircular blade, then rubbed with a brass rod to loosen the bark, which is split with a knife and peeled. The peels are telescoped one into another forming a quill about 107 cm (42 inches) long and filled with trimmings of the same quality bark to maintain the cylindrical shape. After four or five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten the filling and then placed in subdued sunlight for further drying. Finally, they are bleached with sulfur dioxide and sorted into grades.
Cinnamon contains from 0.5 to 1 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde. The oil is distilled from the fragments for use in food, liqueur, perfume, and drugs. The aldehyde can also be synthesized.
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