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Sunday, February 27, 2011

 

Cinnamon or “cinnamon”?


by Nanette Geller

CinnamonThe spice most Americans call “cinnamon” is actually true Ceylon cinnamon’s close relative cassia. Both have a prominent place on my spice shelf. Like most of my spices, I buy Ceylon cinnamon and Vietnamese cassia cinnamon from Penzeys. The branches of Big Island cinnamon I bought from Wailea Ag Group at the KCC Farmers Market are true Ceylon cinnamon.

Ceylon cinnamon is subtle and complex. It is rarely used in the US, but is the one usually used in Mexico (where it is known as canela). Cassia is much stronger and hotter. I often mix them, using mostly Ceylon cinnamon with a little Vietnamese cinnamon for emphasis. We like to add both to our cereal in the morning. American recipes are written for cassia, so if you want to substitute Ceylon cinnamon you will need to increase it.

Americans usually use cinnamon/cassia in sweets but elsewhere it is also used in savory dishes. I especially like the subtle fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon in tomato dishes, such as pasta sauces. Unlike cassia, which would be overwhelming, the Ceylon cinnamon adds an almost unidentifiable background complexity. I used to add either a piece of Ceylon cinnamon stick or a dash of the powder, but now that I have cinnamon leaves I just add a couple along with the bay leaves (which I also get from Wailea Ag Group). They are also wonderful in stews, soups, and bean dishes –  anyplace I use bay leaves.



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