It is the world’s most beloved bark. You’ll find it in bakery treats and breakfast cereals, in savory stews and soups, in a mug of hot chocolate, or in lamb on the grill in Mumbai or Milwaukee. Cinnamon is used around the world: from Asia (where the vast majority of cinnamon is grown) to the Americas, to Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The world loves this spice.
Just What Is Cinnamon, Anyway?
Cinnamon is the bark of trees in the genus Cinnamomum, an evergreen in the laurel family. It grows in the tropics and subtropics around the globe. Today, the vast majority of the world’s cinnamon grows in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
The Spice House carries three distinct varieties of cinnamon: Ceylon and two cassia varieties.
Our Ceylon cinnamon, called “true cinnamon,” is cultivated in Sri Lanka. It is the cinnamon you will encounter most frequently in Mexico and in Europe, adding a subtle, citrusy flavor to puddings, pastries, and poached fruit.
The first of our cassia varieties is Korintje cinnamon from Indonesia. Smooth and mellow, this is the cinnamon most bakers choose.
The second cassia variety is our Saigon cinnamon from Vietnam. It is, by far, the strongest and sweetest variety in our collection. Its sweet and spicy flavor is perfect in any recipe where cinnamon takes center stage.
Cinnamon sticks are called quills and they are the curled bark of the tree. And there any number of things an inventive cook can do with them!
Korintje Cassia Cinnamon Sticks
Cut and washed, our Korintje Cassia Cinnamon sticks are grade AA and grown in Sumatra. Indonesian cinnamon is the smooth flavor most of us associate with childhood. This quill length is practical for canning, spiced cider, and mulled wines. And they can be used as straws or stirrers for punches or eggnog. Rinsed and dried, Korintje Cinnamon Sticks can be reused until the flavor dissipates. And throwing one in a pot of simmering water on your stove will give your whole home a scent perfect for the winter months.
Phở is one of the world’s great multicultural dishes: French-influenced, but perfected in Vietnam’s home kitchens long after the colonial era. The depth of flavor is often astounding and the spice-profile is essential in building the layers that are expected in one of the world’s great dishes. Our vegan version, made with mushrooms, does not disappoint. Spices normally associated with sweets and baking in the west lend complex aromatics to the savory broth.
Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks
There is something exquisitely delicate about Ceylon cinnamon: the bark is almost papery, you can break it easily between your fingers. And the flavor is subtle. So it seems appropriate that the recipes we are going to recommend highlight this careful player in building flavor.
A simple cup of canela tea will make the point better than almost any other recipe: unadulterated Ceylon cinnamon flavor, opened up by the heat and the water. And the cinnamon clove syrup recipe below will keep Ceylon cinnamon’s flavor easily at hand for any cook who is smitten with the spice. Try serving it over fresh melon or ice-cream for a cool dessert on a summer evening.
Addendum: We can’t not mention Mexico’s love affair with Ceylon cinnamon. Café con Canela is a mainstay at breakfast tables from Veracruz to Austin, Texas. Toss a few pieces of a cinnamon stick into your coffee grinder along with your favorite beans. Exquisito!
And mole has not only ancho chiles at the core of its dark red-brown heart but cinnamon, too. But that deserves a whole blog post of its own...
Saigon Cassia Cinnamon
Vietnamese cinnamon is the over-achiever in the cinnamon department. With an unbelievably high 5-7% oil content, our Saigon Cassia cinnamon pieces are strong and spicy. Once you taste it, it’s hard to go back to “ordinary” cinnamon. We offer bark pieces anywhere from 1 - 8 inches.
Use them for extra flavor wherever a regular cinnamon stick is called for, like this recipe for North African Style Stewed Chicken.
Article by Seán Collins, Staff Writer