Cinnamon Cassia, cinnamomum aromaticum
Cassia is a spice consisting of the aromatic bark of the Cinnamomum cassia plant of the family Lauraceae. Similar to true cinnamon, cassia bark has a more pungent, less delicate flavour and is thicker than cinnamon bark. This ancient spice was known to the Chinese as early as 3000 BC and mentioned in the Bible. It was used by the Pharaohs and came into Europe over the spice routes from the East.
Cassia is a native of Burma and is a small, evergreen laurel like tree growing to a height of 3m in warm tropical conditions. It has yellow flowers and the brown, immature fruit is snugly held in a cuplike, hard, wrinkled, grayish-brown calyx (the whole commonly called a bud). They vary in size but ordinarily 11 mm long, including the calyx tube. The upper part of the bud may be about 6mm in diameter. Cassia bark is pealed from stems and branches and set aside to dry. Some varieties are scraped. While drying, the bark curls into quills. The colour varies from light reddish brown for the thin, scraped bark to gray for the thick, unscraped bark. Ground cassia is reddish brown in colour.
Aroma and flavour
Cassia from China is less aromatic than that from Vietnam and Indonesia. Cassia from all the three countries possess a sweet, aromatic, and pungent flavour. Vietnamese, or Saigon, cassia is particularly highly esteemed.
It contains from 1 to 2 percent oil of cassia, a volatile oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde (85-90%). The leaf oil from this species also contains a high percent of cinnamic aldehyde. The oleoresin of cassia usually contains 25-40% volatile oil.
Cassia bark is used as a flavouring in cooking, especially in savory dishes and particularly in liqueurs and chocolate. It is an ingredient in mixed spice, pickling spices. It is good with stewed fruits. Southern Europeans prefer it to cinnamon, but, in North America, ground cinnamon is sold without distinction as to the species from which the bark is obtained.
Medicinal and other use
Cassia buds, the dried, unripe fruits of C.cassia and C.loureirii, have a cinnamon-like aroma and a warm, sweet, pungent taste akin to that of cassia bark. The whole buds are added to foods for flavouring. The cinnamic aldehyde is a good antifungal agent. The volatile oil is used in some inhalants, in tonics and as a cure for flatulence, sickness and diarrhoea.
Indian Institute of Spices Research, India
Cinnamon is a wonderful and versatile spice. It is good in sweet dishes and baked goods, savoury sauces and seasonings, stews and drinks. Cinnamon is good with so many foods that it is a must in any spice cupboard. It comes in sticks and in powder form.
How to Use:
Pickling, stewed prunes, hot chocolate, mulled wine, fruit compotes, plum pudding, fruit cake, spice cake, apple pie, applesauce, apple dumplings, apple butter, baked apples, french toast, cinnamon toast, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, puddings, custards, pumpkin pie, chocolate fudge, coffee, cookies, eggnog, milk shakes, tapioca pudding, sweet potatoes, ham glazes, roasts of lamb, pork and ham, stuffings that include fruit, lamb and beef stew, creamed chicken dishes, some soups.
Cinnamon, a bushy evergreen tree of the laurel family (Lauraceae) is native to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the neighbouring Malabar Coast of India, and Myanmar (Burma) and also cultivated in South America and the West Indies for the spice consisting of its dried inner bark. The spice is light brown in colour and has a delicately fragrant aroma and warm, sweet flavour. It is lighter in colour and milder in flavour than the other related species.
Cinnamon was once more valuable than gold and has been associated with ancient rituals of sacrifice or pleasure. In Egypt, it was sought for embalming and witchcraft; in medieval Europe for religious rites and as flavouring. References to cinnamon are plenty throughout the Old Testament in the Bible. Later it was the most profitable spice in the Dutch East India Company trade.
Cinnamon is a bushy evergreen tree (6-8 m tall), cultivated as low bushes to ease the harvesting process. The leaves are long (10-18 cm), leathery and shining green on upper surface when mature. The flowers have a fetid, disagreeable smell. The fruit is a dark purple, one-seeded berry. It prefers shelter and moderate rainfall without extremes in temperature. Eight to ten lateral branches grow on each bush and after three years they are harvested. The Sri Lankan farmer harvests his main crop in the wet season, cutting the shoots close to the ground. In processing, the shoots are first scraped with a semicircular blade, then rubbed with a brass rid to loosen the bark, which is split with a knife and peeled. The peels are telescoped one into another forming a quill about 107 cm (42 inches) long and filled with trimming of the same quality bark to maintain the cylindrical shape. After four or five days of drying, the quills are rolled on a board to tighten the filling and then placed in subdued sunlight for further drying. Finally, they are bleached with sulphur dioxide and sorted into grades.
Aroma and flavour
Cinnamon contains from 0.5 to 1 present essential oil, the principal component of which is cinnamic aldehyde (about 60%). Other components are eugenol, eugenol acetate, and small amounts of aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, esters and terpenes. The oil is distilled from fragments for use in food, liqueur, perfume and drugs. The aldehyde can also be synthesized. Cinnamon leaf oil is unique in that it contains eugenol as its major constituent (70-90%).
Culinary, medicinal and other use
In modern times, cinnamon is used to flavour a variety of foods, from confections to curries; in Europe and the USA it is especially popular in bakery goods. The stick cinnamon is added whole to casseroles, rice dishes, mulled wines and punches, and to syrups for poaching fruit. The chips are also used in tea infusions or spiced cider blends. Ground cinnamon is used in baked goods like cakes, pasteries and biscuits. Cinnamon leaf oil is used in processed meats, condiments and also in bakery items. Oil from the bark is used in the manufacture of perfume. The cinnamic aldehyde and/or eugenol present are both antifungal agents. Cinnamon is a stimulant, astringent and carminative, used as an antidote for diarrhoea and stomach upsets.
Cinnamon sticks are made from the bark of a tree of the laurel family. The pieces of bark are rolled by hand into a scroll shape and then rolled daily until fully dry. At this stage they are tan in colour and fairly brittle. Cinnamon sticks can be ground into a powder.
It was one of the first spices sought in the European exploitation of the world during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the bible, Moses was instructed by God to use cinnamon in preparing holy anointing oil.
In laboratory studies, cinnamon--together with turmeric, cloves, and bay leaves--tripled the ability of insulin to metabolize glucose, the blood sugar that supplies us with energy.
While some diabetics who are taking a quarter teaspoon or so of cinnamon with their morning oatmeal have reported better blood sugar control, there are no major studies to back up its therapeutic effect and it can't be used as a replacement for regular medication. Diabetics and others should be careful about overdoing it in their diets.
Indian Institute of Spices Research, India