Very little true cinnamon ever reaches the United States. What we call cinnamon is actually cassia, a spice from China and Indochina closely related to cinnamon.
Like cinnamon, cassia comes from a tree of the laurel family. Harvesters don't remove the outer bark before the drying process, as they do in real cinnamon, so cassia has a darker color, a more intense aroma, and a stronger flavor than cinnamon.
Today, this spice we call cinnamon flavors many of our favorite foods.
- Use stick cinnamon as a swizzle stick in hot chocolate, rum drinks, coffee, or cider.
- Place stick cinnamon in a spice bag for hot punches and ciders.
- Substitute ground cinnamon for allspice or nutmeg to experiment with flavors. Use only one-fourth the amount of cinnamon when recipe calls for allspice or nutmeg.
- Store stick and ground cinnamon tightly covered in a cool, dry place. Stick cinnamon will stay fresh up to 2 years and ground cinnamon up to 6 months.
- To ensure cinnamon retains its spicy flavor, but it in small quantities, and mark containers with date of purchase.