Why am I putting a stick of cinnamon in my cranberry relish?

Why don’t I just put in cinnamon?

Been following this recipe for years. Lot of spices, including grated orange peel, a stick of cinnamon and a bay leaf. When finished, remove and discard cinnamon stick and bay leaf. I understand the bay leaf – you don’t want to eat it, but you can’t get the flavor without putting in the leaf --, but since I don’t want to eat the cinnnamon stick either, is there a reason why I shouldn’t just add powered cinnamon? If I do, how much? Teaspoon? More? Less? (For comparison, there’s a teaspoon of ginger and another of cloves.)

Or should I just leave it in, like the baby in a King Cake?

*And I finally wised up and bought grated orange peel, so I don’t have to spend half an hour grating it myself and getting sticky with orange effluvia. Yay Spice Islands!

The cinnamon in cinnamon sticks is actually a completely different spice than powdered cinnamon, even though they’re known by the same name. The powdered stuff is more suitable for desserts; the sticks are more savory.

Are you sure? I know that most cinnamon in this country is actually one of a set of varieties called cassia (which isn’t “completely different” – it’s extremely closely related to “true cinnamon”), but I think that applies regardless of which form you get it in. The cinnamon sticks in my pantry right now, for example, aren’t C. verum, even though they come from Sri Lanka. I’m fairly sure I’ve had powdered cinnamon that was “real,” although the jar I have at the moment isn’t labelled that precisely.

Rather, I suspect that sticks are used because they want a very small amount of flavor in the final product,and it’s easier to use a stick and remove it than measure out a tenth of a teaspoon of powder. Cinnamon powder is awfully strong stuff.

Grrrr, you made me look it up :(.

Anyway it looks like you’re right. They’re not completely different, but there are different varieties, and the stuff you get in stick form doesn’t taste exactly the same as the powdered stuff. Just going by my own experience on that, though.

Makes sense. Thank you.

Think of adding an ice cube to a drink vs adding a shot of water. The ice cube will eventually melt, but while it does, the drink is cooled without being watered down.

The stick gives you an unspiced majority of the preparation, a volume close to the stick which is spicy, and that crunchy bit of spice to bite into (if you leave it in). It’s different from adding in powder and mixing it well with everything else. Better? That depends on your taste. If all you do is put the stick in and take it off after a while, it gives you a way to add in a tiny bit of spice that’s more manageable than trying to use a spoon.

Cinnamon sticks tend to have more of the essential oils still in them then the powdered cinnamon does. Because there’s less surface area exposed to the air, there’s less essential oil loss during storage. More essential oils = more and more complex flavor and aroma. For the strongest cinnamon flavor, you can take a bit of clean sandpaper and run it over the stick before putting the stick in your dish- this rubs off the outer dried out unflavorful bits of the stick and releases a whole 'nother layer of essential oils to move into your food.

So sure, you can use powdered, but some of the really delicate subtle notes may be lost entirely and how much to use depends on the variety, the age and how it’s been stored. It’s going to take some trial and error.

You want to error on Thanksgiving morning? Do ya, punk? :wink:

Let us know how it turns out with dried orange peel. Again, you’ve lost a lot of the flavor and aroma with that route - in a highly spiced dish, it may not matter. But a more delicate dish (like a Creme Fraiche) will definitely not be the same with dried peel.

Put a microplaneon your Wish List - makes zesting citrus fruits quick and painless with easy clean up if you rinse it right when you’re done, not to mention grating Parmesan cheese, nutmegs and a gazillion other things.

I’d already made it when I posted. Turned out as good as always. And I’m going to stick with the jarred orange peel. It spreads out well, unlike the fresh stuff that always stayed in a clump.

Do you mean something else by Creme Fraiche here? Because to me it’s just sour cream, but you’re implying some sort of prepared dish.

That was sloppily worded, you’re right. But one can flavor Creme Fraiche with other things, like zest. I’ve done it with just creme fraiche and zest, or you can get more complex with something like this, which is an amazing desert topping: Orange Crème Fraîche That’s where dried peel won’t give you the same flavor/odor and even texture as fresh, because it’s the predominant flavor in a delicate dish.

But in a cranberry relish with lots of complex bold spicy flavors, it sounds like it sufficed. Glad to hear it!

You can buy orange zest?? Why did I never know?

Actually, after years of hating to zest oranges and lemons, I did buy a microplane grater, and now it’s no trouble at all. It’s night and day, and I got rid of my stupid old-style zester. Now to get that mandoline I’ve been thinking about…