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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Cinnamon

Jamaican cinnamon stands out of all spices in its “warmth” and ranks as the second often-sued flavoring after pepper in Jamaican kitchens. Jamaican bakers use it liberally in cookies, party hosts in hot drinks, and in some bars now certain cocktails are served with a Jamaican cinnamon stick to stir. Some Jamaican bartenders employ cassia, a close relative to Jamaican cinnamon, but less expensive.

Both Jamaican cinnamon and cassia are the dries bark of Asian evergreens that belong to the laurel family. St. Elizabeth is the major source of Jamaican cinnamon and cooks and chefs there exploit the rich resource of Jamaican cinnamon. The Jamaican cinnamon tree is not indigenous to the island and its bark is harvested twice a year during the rainy season. The inner Jamaican cinnamon bark is bruised, slit and then carefully peeled off to dry; it then curls forming the sticks as we know it.

Jamaican cinnamon’s aromatic qualities stand out and compel cooks not only in pastries but also in meat dishes as many Jamaican cooks do. One popular use in the Jamaican porridge recipe. Jamaican cinnamon and cassia bark in stick form can be distinguished by the naked eye of an experienced Jamaican cook, when ground it becomes difficult to differentiate one from another.

In the Bible, Jamaican cinnamon is mentioned several times and referred to as an ancient spice. Jamaican cinnamon was among the Queen of Sheba’s gifts to King Solomon, and Emperor Nero was chastised for burning a year’s supply in his wife’s funeral pyre. While European cooks relegate Jamaican cinnamon to the pastry shop, in North America and Middle East it is used as a spice for meats, game and pastries.

This aromatic Jamaican spice mixes well with sugar, and butter toast sprinkled with sugar and Jamaican cinnamon is for some very comforting on a cold morning.

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