Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices mankind has been familiar with. With its dazzling smell, it has managed to fascinate everyone since the ancient times. This precious plant has two species. The thick and firm type, which is used more commonly, is derived from the bark of Cassia (Chinese cinnamon) tree grown in Indonesia and Vietnam. Ceylan cinnamon, peculiar to Sri Lanka, is a rare species with an intense aroma and sweetish flavor, which has a thin bark that crumbles easily in your hand. Harvesting both of them requires a certain kind of finesse. Only trees older than 25 can be harvested. During the monsoon season, when the barks of trees are still moist, thin layers are removed from inside the barks by using a traditional method that is passed from generation to generation. These layers are rolled carefully and left to dry. The warming characteristic of cinnamon makes it one of the essentials of winter months. Who could say no to a hot salep (a drink made from sahlep root in hot milk) with cinnamon or a fragrant slice of carrot cake baked with cinnamon? While a pinch of cinnamon can transform cakes, cookies and desserts into a legend, it can also create unforgettably special tastes when added to meatballs and sautéed meat.
You can use both cinnamon sticks or ground cinnamon. Using stick cinnamon with herbal teas, sherbets or pilaf is much easier. With cakes, tarts, cookies and other desserts, ground cinnamon is much more practical.
Cinnamon is characterized by a sweet, warm, woody, delicate but intense aroma, which has notes of citrus and cloves in the background.
Cinnamon blends perfectly with desserts. It compliments desserts prepared with fruits such as pumpkin, apples, pears, bananas and grapes. It creates a surprising flavor harmony with meat dishes. Adding a pinch of cinnamon when making meatballs and adding a piece of cinnamon stick to the ingredients of your lamb’s shank or lamb’s quarter will completely transform their tastes.
The lighter the color of your ground cinnamon is the stronger its aroma becomes. However, since it loses its aroma quickly prefer to purchase it in small quantities so that you can consume it immediately. Cinnamon sticks can preserve its aroma much longer. Especially if they are kept in an airtight glass jar with a tight lid, they will preserve their aroma for 2-3 years.
The moment cinnamon is grinded it starts to release its aroma. On the other hand, to bring out the aroma of cinnamon sticks, you either have to put them in hot water or cook them.
One of the best spices that work well with sweetish vegetables such as cauliflower and carrot is cinnamon. Especially when you’re cooking these vegetables with ground beef, do not forget to add a pinch of cinnamon.
Beside salep and herbal teas, another hot beverage that blends well with cinnamon is hot chocolate. Like Mexicans, you can make your beverage a bit tastier by adding a bit of cinnamon and even a bit of hot red pepper to your hot chocolate.
By combining cinnamon with cloves, cilantro, cumin, ginger, nutmeg and turmeric, you can prepare your own spice mix and use this mix in different meals from roast chicken to beef and from casseroles to pilaf.