Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade Cinnamon Powder comes from Sri Lanka, where Steenbergs buys its organic Fairtrade spices from the Small Organic Farmers Association. Cinnamon powder comes from the true cinnamon tree - Cinnamomum zeylanicum - the powder is made from the bark of the tree (some cinnamon is actually from cassia). These are ground down to give a tan coloured powder with an aroma that is sweet, perfumed, warm and mildly woody with no hint of bitterness. Use it on anything from porridge to curries and bread and butter pudding and through to flavouring stews and curries - organic cinnamon has to be one of the most versatile of spices.
One of the world's oldest spices, even being used by the Pharoahs, cinnamon comes from tropical, evergreen trees related to bay plants; in fact, cinnamon leaves are used throughout Southern Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine much like the British use bay leaves, but with a more clove-like flavour profile. Cinnamon trees grow to 8 - 17m tall (25 - 55ft) with a trunk diameter of 30-60cm (12-24 inches). The cinnamon leaves start a reddy colour, before turning light green then through to a darker, glossy green colouration. Cinnamon flowers are surprisingly small, pale yellow blossoms.
For processing cinnamon, the first stage is to train the tree by cutting the tree down to a stump 15cm (6 inch) above the ground. From this stump, up to 6 shoots are encouraged to grow for up to 2 years before harvesting. Cinnamon spice is prepared by skilled cinnamon peelers, who harvest shoots when they are 1.5m long (5ft) and 3cm in diameter (1 inch). Taking the cut shoot, the cinnamon peeler removes the outer corky bark, then rubs the stem to remove the paper-thin layer of cinnamon under-bark, which is then cut from the cinnamon shoot. This moist and citrus-smelling quill is rolled tight before being taken to dry in the warm shade. The result is a tightly rolled quilling of wafer-thin tan coloured bark, which can then be cut into a range of sizes for the retail customer. Shavings and trimmings from the cinnamon cutting and peeling process are dried and used to make the powder. This is the process used in India and Sri Lanka; for the lower quality, coarser cinnamon quills and powder that is often found on retailers' shelves, the source is usually from semi-wild cinnamon trees in the Seychelles.
Cinnamon powder has a complex and fragrant citrus flavour that is full of exotic sweetness. Cinnamon's perfumed aroma is unique but has hints of clove, nutmeg and sandalwood. Cinnamon is great in sweet baking as well as in savoury foods, such as curries and I love it with duck or lamb simply rubbed onto the outside.