Celebrate the Season with Cinnamon

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.

Celebrate the Season with Cinnamon
Celebrate the Season with Cinnamon

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 Apple Cider in a glass
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

Ajowan Spice in Your Cooking

Ways to Use Ajowan Spice in Your Cooking

We recently created  a post about Ajowan  – ( Ajowan Spice – Tasty Healing Powers ). I’ve had some  requests regarding ways to use Ajowan spice in your cooking, so let’s do it!

Ajowan Spice in Your Cooking

With its strong thyme and anise-like flavor, a little ajowan spice in your cooking can go a long way.
Ajowan spice must always be cooked. The raw seeds have a numbing effect. Cooking will remove the numbing effect. The longer ajowan spice cooks, the mellower it becomes. To enhance the flavor, first fry it in a little oil until it deepens in color.

The small ajowan seeds are chewable, so you needn’t grind them. Ajowan lovers generally prefer the crunch that whole seeds add to a dish. But if you’d rather grind the seeds, dry roast them first. The seeds are tender and easily broken with the fingers, so you can get a fine powder using a mortar and pestle.

Ajowan spice is best known for the flavor it imparts to breads, biscuits, and desserts.

Ajowan spice also blends nicely in chutneys, relishes, and pickles.

Here are a few suggestions for experimenting with ajowan spice in your cooking:Ahowan spice seeds

  • Add it to meat and fish curries, lentil stews, and potato casseroles. Remember that the flavor will mellow with cooking, so feel free to add more than pinch in these dishes.
  • Dry roast ajowan seeds and add them to trail mix or spiced nut blends.
  • Add a pinch to homemade bread and pastry doughs. It gives piquancy to the pastry crust of a chicken potpie
    or other meat pies.
  • Sprinkle seeds on top of steamed or stir-fried vegetables.
  • Blend roasted seeds into a compound butter for sauteing vegetables.
  • Fry in oil and combine with garlic, ginger, and turmeric to make a stir-fry

Buy Ajowan

Ajowan is inexpensive but somewhat hard to find locally. Indian markets and possibly some specialty spice shops may carry the product. Online, Amazon is your best bet – we recommend Ajwain Seeds.

Ajowan seeds

Ajowan Spice Healing Powers

Ajowan Spice Healing Powers

Other names: Carom seeds and ajwain (pronounced aj’o-wen)

Ajowan spice healing powers are popular in India, where the spice is used in cooking to add zest to curries and aroma to breads and biscuits. As an added bonus, ajowan spice healing powers are known to have the ability to heal every day ills.

Ahowan seeds

Think of how often we run to our medicine cabinets to grab aspirin for aches, cough medicine for coughs and sore throats, antacids for our tummies or antihistamine for allergies. Well, in India, people are more likely to prepare a beverage called “omam water – ajowan spice seeds steeped in warm distilled water.

Oman water is generally used for digestive ailments such as heartburn, belching, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. This beverage is technically considered a folk remedy; however, researchers are studying ajowan now giving it scientific support as a spice with healing powers.

Soothe the Digestive Tract

Researchers have thus far discovered more than two dozen medicinally active compounds in ajowan’s tiny seeds. One of them is as strong as morphine!

Relief for Pain

Raw ajowan seeds have a hot, bitter flavor that is so intense they will actually numb your tongue for a moment. When used in cooking, the sting is abated. In any event, the cause of this temporary numbing is from the thymol. It literally numbs pain.

Researchers believe further relief is due to the choline and acetylcholine (controls involuntary muscles) in ajowan seeds. Choline is a nutrient that aids the brain in sending healing messages to the body. To get the most relief, one must use the seeds roasted.

“The present study supports claims of traditional Iranian medicine showing the Carum copticum
[ajowan] extract possesses a clear-cut analgesic [pain-relieving] effect.” –Journal of Ethnopharmacology

Getting to Know Ajowan

Ajowan may be a stranger to most American kitchens but in American medicine cabinets you may find use of its active ingredients in cough medicines and lozenges. The essential oil from ajowan is thymol, which can be found in mouthwash and toothpaste.

Components of the spice are also used to maintain the shelf life of packaged foods and perfumes.

In the Kitchen 

Ajowan works well with starchy foods, and is used to flavor dishes of root vegetables and legumes. In India, it is an essential ingredient in lentil dishes for its taste as well as its ability to improve digestion and prevent flatulence.

An appetizer fritter called pakora or a filled dumpling called samosa are popular in Indian baked goods. In Afghanistan, it is used in breads and pastries. It is also a key ingredient in the Ethiopian spice blend berbere.

pairs well with these spices:

Ajowan Plant
Ajowan Plant
  • Chile
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Mustard seed

The small seeds are about the size of celery seeds and are sold whole, as they are rarely used in ground form. If stored in an airtight container away from heat and moisture, they will keep for two years or more.