Celebrate the Season with Cinnamon Spice
Help celebrate the season with cinnamon, warming to the senses and marking the festivities with its familiar aroma. One of the oldest spices known to us, it has been coveted as a medicine, flavoring, embalming agent, and preservative. So common to households today, it was once quite rare, much sought after, and almost worth its weight in gold.
Cinnamon comes from the brown inner bark of several trees from the genus, Cinnamomum, in the laurel family. Ceylon, or “true cinnamon“, and Cassia (also called Chinese and Saigon) are the most common. They are available as dried tubular sticks or ground powder. The oils in the bark contain cinnamaldehyde, among other substances that give this sweet spice its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Just two teaspoons provide 44 percent Daily Value for manganese, which helps the body maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Seasoning high-carbohydrate foods with cinnamon significantly reduces the rise in blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Though it is premature to deem cinnamon a treatment for type 2 diabetes, it has shown promise.
Ceylon and Chinese Cinnamon Spice
Ceylon and Chinese are very similar, but the harder-to-find Ceylon is a bit sweeter and more refined. Look for Ceylon in spice stores or online. The spice’s pungent, sweet scent is the best freshness indicator, so when possible, smell it before buying. Cinnamon sticks store up to a year in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark place, twice as long as the stronger flavored ground variety.
A lovely enhancement to both sweet and savory foods and beverages, cinnamon is easily simmered in tea, cider and milk, sprinkled into dough and batter for breads and baked goods, and mixed into beans and curries for a unique ethnic twist.
Hot Apple Cider Recipe
8 cups apple juice or cider
4 cinnamon sticks (or 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon)
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Heat apple juice or cider in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and zest; simmer for 30 minutes.
Strain and serve hot. Garnish with sticks and a dash of nutmeg, if desired. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 124 calories, 0 grams protein, 0 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 30 grams carbs, 11 milligrams sodium.
See also: Cinnamon Wreaths