A Fragrant Bark

Cinnamon reminds me of the holidays. The smell and taste brings me to a magical place. Once an exotic spice that only the wealthy could afford, cinnamon is now a popular pantry staple used to flavour both sweet and savoury dishes.


Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a medium-size evergreen tree whose outer bark has been scraped off at harvesting. The inner bark, beaten out in long lengths, curls as it dries to form the familiar hard brown rolls or quills. Cinnamon originates from Sri Lanka with today's major producers including Indonesia, China as well.


There are several species of cinnamon, which fall into two categories. Ceylon (or Sri Lankan), "true" cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum), is light brown and coiled in a single spiral, and has a mild delicate flavour. Southeast Asian or Chinese cinnamon (C. cassia), also know as cassia, has a stronger, more bitter taste and woodier texture.


As early as 2000 BCE the ancient Egyptians were using cinnamon as a perfuming agent for embalming bodies. It is referred to several times in the Old Testament as an ingredient in anointing oil (smear or rub with oil, typically as part of a religious ceremony). Cinnamon was well know to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used it to preserve foods and as a seasoning, although their Arab suppliers kept its source a secret. This remained a mystery to Europeans until the early 16th century. But after discovering cinnamon growing wild in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka) in 1505, the Portuguese controlled the cinnamon trade until 1636, when the Dutch took over the island. Then in the18th century, Britain gained control of the trade and passed it to the East India Company, who retained it until 1833.


Now that you know the history of this exotic spice, try making a jar of your own cinnamon sugar to enjoy on toast, oatmeal or giving as a gift.


Here's what you need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon

Special Equipment:

  • Spice jar and label

Instructions:

  1. Measure the sugar and cinnamon into a bowl

  2. Use a spoon or small whisk to mix it together

  3. Store in a spice jar with a special label




Sources:

1. The Story of Food

2. The History of Food



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