By Emma Chow
It makes sense to buy spices whole and in bulk and grind them as you need them. Spices retain more flavour and fragrance in their whole form and quickly lose it once ground. They are also much cheaper to buy whole and in bulk amounts. Just keep them in glass jars or in ziploc bags within plastic containers.
The little packets or glass spice jars of ground cinnamon at the supermarket are ridiculously expensive. By grinding up 2-3 cinnamon sticks you’ll probably yield the same amount as one of those tiny packets.
Cinnamon has various benefits; it is anti-viral and anti-fungal and is used in traditional Asian medicine to assist with skin and acne problems.
Cinnamon imparts flavour more easily and conveniently in stick form versus ground cinnamon which is great for baking and in dishes such as curries where the spices are cooked off at the start to revive their flavour.
Ground cinnamon doesn’t combine quite so easily in drinks that are not milk-based and will float to the top and not provide significant flavour.
The following are some reasons why bundles of cinnamon sticks are a delightful thing to have around the house, plus a bonus recipe. Buy bundles of cinnamon sticks cheaply on the internet or at your fresh food market or local ethnic grocery store; don’t fall for their ’10 for $3′ trick or similar; always buy them by weight. I got roughly 60 sticks for $8 during my last market shop.
- Freshly Ground Cinnamon – this stuff is more potent and delicious smelling that the ready-ground stuff. Use a coffee/spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to grind cinnamon down to a powder. To get it as clean and fine as store bought you may have to sift out some resistant pieces of bark. Keep the excess in a glass jar or a plastic container that seals well.
- Cinnamon tea – is thought to boost your alertness and memory, making a nice alternative to that coffee kick. For every 300mls water, add one cinnamon stick. In a pot, simmer a broken cinnamon stick in the water for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool and steep for 10 minutes
- Cinnamon syrup – This delicious syrup can be added to desserts, cocktails and hot drinks. It also makes a beautiful gift presented in a cute jar. Combine one cup of water, one cup of sugar and 2 cinnamon sticks in a small pot. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Pour hot syrup into the jar, put the lid on and allow to cool. You can keep the cinnamon sticks in the syrup for presentation, but the syrup will already have a strong cinnamon flavour.
- Athletes Foot remedy – here is where cinnamon’s anti-fungal properties are particularly useful. Make a hot bath for the offending feet by combining 1.5 litres of water with 9 cinnamon sticks. Bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Allow to cool and steep for 45 minutes and then soak feet in it for 20 minutes. Prepare this every day until the infection is cured. Chuck a cinnamon stick in each stinky, overused, sweaty shoe for good measure.
- Enhancing Stews and Stews – a stew or soup can benefit from a cinnamon stick chucked in with other ingredients at the start so it can gently impart its flavour through the long cooking process. Beef, chicken, lamb and pork; all these kinds of meats are enhanced by the warm flavour of cinnamon.
In Middle Eastern cooking, such as tagines, whole cinnamon sticks are used in cooking to flavour the meat. Cinnamon added in stick form imparts stronger, fresher flavour than ground cinnamon. Ground cinnamon would need to be added at the start of cooking, stirred together with sautéing onion and vegetables to activate and warm it. Whole cinnamon quills can be thrown in easily.
- Cinnamon Water – this is a nice one for summer; a refreshing drink that has natural sweetness and spice but is really easy to make. Using a cinnamon stick for every 500mls of water, simmer the water and cinnamon together for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and steep. Combine with soda water and lemon for a refreshing drink.
- Air freshener – If there are stinky fish or meat smells hanging around in your kitchen, chuck a couple of cinnamon sticks in a half a pot of water and bring to the boil. The cinnamon will release its aroma in the steam and hopefully help clear out the smells.
- Transform Apple Juice – My partner has fond memories of a simple kiddie version of hot apple cider that his parents used to make on cold winter nights for him and his brothers. Measure out a mug of apple juice for each person, pour into a small pot. Add a cinnamon stick for each person and simmer for 10 minutes. Re-distribute into mugs and serve.
- Cinnamon and Orange all-purpose cleaner – in a litre of white vinegar, add the peel of 2 oranges and 3 cinnamon sticks and allow to sit for at least 2 weeks. Pour into a spray bottle and start cleaning. White vinegar is generally a wonderful cleaner for all areas of the house, but if you don’t love that vinegar smell, the cinnamon and orange will impart their smell and cover it up.
- Enhance Hot and cold drinks – hot chocolate, tea, black coffee, warm milk; all these drinks can be enhanced by the warm flavour of cinnamon. Have you ever had horchata? This is a Latin American and Mexican drink based on rice and cinnamon. It is creamy and refreshing and is naturally vegan and dairy free. Recipe here.