Where does cinnamon come from?
We get our cinnamon from the Ceylon cinnamon tree; it is also called "true cinnamon". It belongs to the laurel family, and comes from Sri Lanka.
The extraction of cinnamon is quite tedious as the delicate inner layers of the bark must be peeled off by hand. The pieces of bark, about a meter long, are fermented overnight. The next day, simply scrape off the outside of the bark to access the inside, as this is where most of the cinnamon is found. The inner part of the bark rolls up as it dries in the shade, then in the sun. This is when the reddish brown color appears.
What are the different varieties of cinnamon?
There are essentially two types of cinnamon:
1. We often speak of Ceylon cinnamon. It is widespread in many parts of Europe because of its delicate aroma. Basically, Ceylon cinnamon is aromatic and sweet. It contains only very small amounts of coumarin, making it harmless to our health.
2. Chinese cinnamon (Cassia) has a more pronounced and spicy aroma due to its higher content of essential oils.
If the variety is not always specified on the package, the origin is usually a good indicator. Ceylon cinnamon usually comes from Madagascar or Sri Lanka. Cassia cinnamon is mostly imported from southern China or Indonesia.
Also, careful observation of cinnamon sticks can be instructive:
Ceylon cinnamon is relatively easy to recognize because of the bark, which is rolled and nested within each other. The bark of a Cassia cinnamon stick is, on the other hand, thicker and rolled on itself.
Cinnamon at Christmas time
If the wonderful smell of cinnamon is in the air, you can be sure that the Christmas season is approaching, because hardly any spice represents the Advent and Christmas season so much. It is one of the most popular spices for enhancing the flavors of both sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon is ideal for buns known as "cinnamon rolls", baked apples or rice pudding. In fact, it is mostly used in pastries, such as in gingerbread and cookies. Even if it is more common to use it for your desserts, cinnamon can also sublimate savory dishes, such as meats and fish. The spice even adds a special touch to your squeezed fruit juices. It is also delicious combined with oriental spices, such as cardamom or ginger. And don't forget that cinnamon goes perfectly with mulled wine, punch or tea! After all, there's nothing better than feeling warm from the inside out.