Cleopatra’s Spice


Cinnamomum zeylanicum
Family Lauraceae

Cinnamon in Spice Market, Bahrain

Cinnamon in Spice Market, Bahrain

Cinnamon is one of our most treasured baking spices. Cinnamon buns, cinnamon sticks, cinnamon gum, cinnamon toast, German apple strudel, garam masala, and cinnamon beverages all cry out for this tremendously popular spice! Cinnamon has medicinal value as well. Its actions are carminative, astringent, aromatic, and stimulant. Because of these properties, it is sometimes simmered in milk and used to treat diarrhea, gas, and indigestion.

There are several varieties of Cinnamomum harvested from the inner bark of evergreen trees. However, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, native to Sri Lanka, is one of the most well-known. Consumers in the United States prefer a different species of cinnamomum known as cassia (Cinnamomum cassia), yet they call it cinnamon. Cinnamomum cassia, which grows in southern China, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia, has a darker, reddish brown color and stronger flavor than the lighter brown C. zeylanicum.

Cinnamon has one of the oldest histories. It was transported overland from Sri Lanka to North Africa and various trading posts around the Mediterranean long before the Portuguese and Dutch established their spice dominating colonies in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, it was valued in ancient Egypt 2000 years before the birth of Christ. Moses used it as an ingredient in holy annointing oils (Exodus 30:22-25). Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.) is reputed to have carried cinnamon with her jewels. In the days of the Roman Empire, cinnamon bark was burned as incense in the temples and wealthy Romans used it in their baths. The Crusaders tried to recapture the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslims between A.D. 1096 and 1270. Although they did not win Jerusalem, their many travels increased their dealings with the merchants of Venice and they returned to Europe with larger quantities of goods from the East, including the sweet little brown sticks called cinnamon. With the passage of time, cinnamon has only increased in popularity, and Sri Lanka continues to be one of the main exporters of this spice in the 21st century.

In your kitchen or craft room today, cinnamon ornaments may be made as decorations for a Christmas tree or any other holiday celebration. Your kitchen smells absolutely wonderful while making them.

Cinnamon Ornaments

Mix 3/4 to 1 cup applesauce with 3/4 cup ground cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons each of nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. Add 1 tablespoon of white glue. Mix to form a stiff dough. Roll out to a 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutters. Make a hole for a ribbon. Carefully put on a cookie pan or rack to dry. Let air dry for several days. Turn occasionally. This makes 12 or more ornaments depending on the size of the cookie cutters. DO NOT EAT.

A cinnamon-flavored holiday drink (hot wassail) will also cheer your spirits. The following recipe makes large quantities to fill a punch bowl at a holiday gathering. You may wish to reduce the recipe as appropriate for your situation.

Hot Wassail

3 cans frozen apple juice, mixed with water as per directions on can
2 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large pan and bring to a boil. Serve hot.

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