The Spice Cupboard: Cinnamon
Cinnamon has always been a treasured spice, probably because it takes 8 years for the tree from which it comes to grow large enough for a harvest. The bark of this tree is harvested in the rainy season when the moisture in the air keeps the bark from drying out too quickly, losing its potent spice. Harvesters strip the outer bark from the trees and rap on the inner bark to make the trees ooze with brown sap. This sap is what flavors the bark and gives it its brown color. Pieces of the inner bark are then pressed and rolled together into tight quills. The quills are left to dry before they are tied into bales and shipped to buyers. Cinnamon grows in places like Madagascar, India, Malaysia, Brazil, Guinea, and the West Indies. Grinding the bark to powder creates the flavorful spice found in most Western kitchens.
Cinnamon is so versatile and useful it may become too commonplace for creativity. But here are few more ways to bring its homey, traditional flavor to your meals. Cinnamon and chocolate make great companions. Sprinkle up to 1/2 teaspoon in chocolate pudding or in cake or brownie batters, and don't forget about hot chocolate. Perk up pancake mixes by adding a teaspoon to one cup of mix before stirring in the milk. Try cinnamon honey-butter on scones, rolls or cornbread. Mix up to 1 tablespoon into a 1/2 cup each of honey and softened butter. Believe it or not, cinnamon is a great companion to chili! Try adding 1 teaspoon to a pot of your favorite chili con carne for a tongue-tingling meal. Lastly, yams, squash, carrots, beets, ham, and other pork dishes really stand out when sprinkled and baked with cinnamon.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *