The Christmas mix has minimal variations, but is mostly characterized by powdered cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, ginger, allspice.
There are several theories as to why so many spicy spices are used at the Winter Solstice: from parallels drawn with the fragrant oils used for embalming mummies, to the thought of antiviral effects. However, the most likely version seems to be a completely human performance.
For centuries, spices were one of the most expensive things a person could buy (for a long time the third most expensive behind gold and silver), so if you brought a raven to the table at Christmas, where your eyes were or bursting out of your mouth, it was obvious to everyone , that they ended up in the house of rich people. In addition, it would be wrong to think that we are the only ones who have the right to gingerbread – even if they are not always in the form of cookies, the spices are basically the same as in Germany stollenboth in British Christmas cake and Dutch spiced Bisquit, which is almost the same as Latvian gingerbread. But now about everything in turn!
It seems that the most important Christmas spice is cinnamon. It comes from Southeast Asia, it is grown mostly in Sri Lanka. Cinnamon is the inner bark that is scraped off the cinnamon tree. As with anything, with cinnamon, nothing is as simple as it seems. The best is Ceylon or Sri Lankan cinnamon, whose stick resembles a light yellow-brown rolled papyrus strip. It is sweeter than Chinese cinnamon (cassia) and does not have the harshness of the latter. Chinese cinnamon is therefore also called false cinnamon, and it is more like a brown rolled cigar. What lies beneath the ground cinnamon is mostly a mystery, unless the manufacturer has honestly admitted it.
This is another reason why it is recommended to buy only cinnamon sticks and grind the powder yourself, because you can recognize them by sight. However, the first and most important reason in favor of unground cinnamon is its taste and smell – just like with pepper (for grinding you will only need a coffee grinder).
You can do without studying labels and bars if you only use cinnamon once a year at Christmas. However, it would be a shame to use this aromatic spice only once a year, as it is quite versatile. Baked apple pies and puddings are definitely missing something without this spice, as is dried fruit jelly with freshly whipped cream. Cinnamon can also be enjoyed pure with meat – game, beef and lamb. Next time, when browning meat, throw in a stick!
I will talk about other Christmas season spices next week.