Tag Archives: cinnamon

The signs are obvious: Facing cinnamon supply pressure

11 Apr

ColeSourcing

By Cole Daily

One of my favorite movies, The Man with Two Brains, has a scene where Steve Martin’s character is talking to the portrait of his deceased wife and asking her for a sign — even the smallest of signs, anything at all — to indicate whether he should marry a new love he’s come across. As he asks the portrait above the fireplace for guidance, the house starts to shake like a violent earthquake has hit, a voice out of nowhere says emphatically, ”No! No!,” and the portrait begins to spin like a roulette wheel on the wall. It all stops, and Martin implores, “Just give me a sign, any type of sign.” He then goes about marrying the new woman.

“What does this scene have to do with the price of cinnamon in Indonesia?” you ask. We’re getting signs from all over the world that are about as subtle as the ones Martin’s character was getting from the portrait — signs that things are changing in the realm of spices.

A changing environment
There’s not a trip that I go on where a farmer doesn’t express concern about changing climactic conditions and how it’s affecting his crops. Also, land is becoming scarce. Land that was once used for growing spices is now being utilized for food crops or alternative fuel crops like jatropha (an inedible, evergreen shrub cultivated in tropical and sub-tropical regions), switch grass and corn. Companies as well as countries are buying arable land in Africa and Asia so that they can feed growing populations and meet the need for more fuel. There is every indication that spice prices will continue to rise (they have risen in the marketplace by over 50 percent since 2008), quality will probably suffer, and overall availability will be hindered.

As a spice supplier, we are constantly confronted with individual situations growing out of this changing environment. Continue reading

Divinity Drink: A White Hot Chocolate

28 Dec
The wind’s howling out there. You’re sitting by the fire, pondering New Year’s resolutions. Let’s make the first one about being good to yourself.
If you have milk, cinnamon and nutmeg left over from your Christmas celebration, you’re on the way to creating this delicious treat to warm up a long winter’s night.
DIVINITY DRINK
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon maple syrup or maple syrup granules
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
pinch of saffron
2 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions

In a small pan, combine milk, maple syrup, spices, and baking chocolate pieces. Warm over very low heat until chocolate is melted. (Don’t allow it to scald.) Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Warm again over low heat, then serve immediately.

Vary the taste and scent of this heavenly white hot chocolate by substituting almond extract for the vanilla now and then.

Our Segment from the Whole Foods Market® Whole Story Blog

16 Dec

As Marc Hamel and Ha Lam wrote in their recent blog post on the Whole Foods Market® Whole Story blog, “Frontier knows the quality of spices can make or break a recipe — just a dash of spice can make a world of difference. Frontier focuses on sourcing the best to ensure that home cooks and home bakers can perfect flavors in recipes when using spices.”

We do, indeed.

Here’s what happened when they paid us a visit, with our CEO Tony Bedard giving Martha Stewart a run for her money.

 

And here’s that recipe for the Sugar-Coated Gingerbread Twists.

The Whole Story blog gives you a fun behind-the-scenes look at some of Whole Foods’ suppliers, vendors and producers.

Please visit the Whole Story blog for more of our story.

Cinnamon: The World’s Most Popular Baking Spice

12 Dec

Cinnamon’s distinctive taste and aroma can be enjoyed solo as in cinnamon rolls, or in tandem with other warm spices like cloves, nutmeg, and allspice: in cakes, cookies and fruit crisps, breads and pies, puddings, ice cream—you name it!

It’s also common in savory dishes—like soups, sauces, chutneys, curries, catsup, pickles, squash, potatoes, green beans, red beets, applesauce, vinegars, meat, fish and poultry glazes and marinades and grains. Or try it in hot drinks like cider, coffee, tea, and cocoa, too.

It depends on the cook developing the blend, of course, but because it complements so many foods and other spices, you can often find cinnamon in many spice blends, such as curry powder, garam masala, sambhar powder, and five spice powder. Baking blends like apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice, as well as many pickling blends, seafood boil blends, tea blends (like Chai), and mulling spice blends also rely upon cinnamon.

While the names cinnamon and cassia are often used interchangeably—and the plants are related—there are botanical and practical differences. Cassia is reddish-brown and pungently sweet; it’s grown primarily in China and the Indonesian islands. (The outer bark isn’t removed during the harvesting of cassia.) True cinnamon, on the other hand, is buff-colored and mild; it generally comes from Sri Lanka (ancient Ceylon, from which it gets its name) and the Malabar Coast of India. Cinnamon is considered a more complex flavor, spicy rather than sweet, with woody undertones. Each holds its place in various ethnic cuisines and kitchens. Most of the powdered cinnamon sold in supermarkets today is cassia.

By the way, you can tell cinnamon sticks from cassia sticks by the way they curl: cinnamon sticks roll from only one side, but cassia sticks curl inward from both sides toward the center.

About our cinnamon: Our Indonesian cassia (Cinnamomum burmanii) — considered the most flavorful in the world — comes from Mt. Korintje in Sumatra, where the altitude contributes to the spice’s intense, reddish-brown color and strong flavor.

In the mountainous regions of North Vietnam, farmers harvest Frontier’s Vietnamese cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureirii) from trees that have matured at least 20 years. Its pungent aroma and rich flavor is the result of the high oil content; we purchase cinnamon cut from the base of the tree, where the highest concentration or oil is found. We also offer Cinnamomum verum, or “true cinnamon,” from Sri Lanka.

Now that we’ve got you craving this delicious spice, here’s a simple way to enjoy it — perfect for a winter’s day. Wrap your hands around a mug of this wonderful hot beverage. No baking required!

Cinnamon Soother

2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon favorite green or black tea
1 teaspoon dried chamomile leaves
2 teaspoons honey (or to taste)
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon cinnamon granules
2 cinnamon sticks (for stirring)

Pour boiling water over tea and chamomile leaves. Steep, covered, for about 10 minutes. Strain. Stir in honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon granules. Pour into two cups and add cinnamon stick stirrers. Serve hot or iced.

Of course, since cinnamon is so popular for baking, here are some other recipes containing cinnamon you may want to try.

We’d love to hear your favorite ways to savor the flavor of cinnamon.

Creating the Perfect Pickle

19 Aug

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who’s never forgotten the fun of canning and pickling the bounty from your garden. Or you’re one of the many new people joining in this time-tested way to enjoy your crops all year long.

A symbol of both thrift and abundance, the pickle jar is a staple in every well-stocked pantry. If growing your own pickles doesn’t strike your fancy, you’re still a pickler if you enjoy mixing up that lively relish recipe or gourmet side dish of spicy pickled mango.

Using an array of spices and a variety of produce (think outside the cucumber patch), you can easily make your own signature pickles.

You’ll find it easy to experiment when making pickles, because the basic ingredients and processes are similar

If you’re going to make pickles, good spices are essential to good pickling. If you have fresh spices in the garden, like stalks of graceful dill, include those for visual interest and fresh taste.

But dried spices — whole, ground, and crushed — are really all you need.

For ease and dependability, you might want to keep a ready-made pickling blend on hand. You can have some fun concocting your own custom spice combinations, too. One person’s favorite pickles might highlight the warm sweetness of cardamom and allspice, for example, while another cook’s favorite blend might pop with chili peppers and garlic.

Here’s our favorite blend to get you on your way.  This is where the bulk section can really be your friend – buy a pinch or buy a pound of these ingredients, depending on the size of your project.

GET-YOU-STARTED PICKLING SPICE BLEND

Use this recipe as a rough guideline, and vary amounts and spice choices according to taste. Simply combine all ingredients to make about 1/4 cup of blend. Make small batches of several blends and use your assortment on pickling day.

one 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken up

3 bay leaves, torn into small pieces

2 small dried chili peppers cut into small pieces

2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed

2 teaspoons dill seed

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon whole allspice

1/2 teaspoon fennel seed

1/2 teaspoon whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seed

Finally, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Use soft water, or distilled or bottled water. Hard water interferes with the curing process.
  • Use vinegars—cider, white, or others—with 4 to 6 percent acetic acid. Commercial vinegars meet this requirement, and you can buy a ph meter to test homemade vinegars.
  • Use pickling salt—not table salt that contains iodine or anti-caking agents or sea salt, which contains trace minerals. Pickling salt (and kosher salt) is free of additives that might discolor ingredients.
  • Use pots, pans, and bowls that are unchipped enamel, stainless, or glass. Galvanized, copper, brass, or iron pans or utensils can react with the salts or acids and change the color and taste of the pickles or even form toxic compounds.

Please visit our Facebook page and post a photo of your pickle or canning project – we’ll randomly choose one of you to win a great batch of canning accessories and spices!

New Twists on Everyday Spices

16 Aug

As we seek healthier eating habits while dealing with tighter budgets, cooking and eating at home is more attractive than ever. If you’re an at-home cook looking for an easy way to expand your culinary horizons, you might try creating some new taste sensations in familiar dishes by using new versions of your favorite spices to liven up family favorites.

Here are some to consider:

Cinnamon is an especially popular spice that comes from the bark of an evergreen tree. For an even sweeter seasoning, try Vietnamese cinnamon. Compared to the more familiar Indonesian types, Vietnamese cinnamon has a distinctly sweet flavor and exceptionally high volatile oil content, the key flavor component. Gourmet cooks rate it as the highest-quality cinnamon in the world. Try using it in everything from oatmeal and baked goods to desserts, beverages and savory dishes.

If you love heat in your food, you’ve probably learned the ways of cayenne. Cayenne adds color and flavor to Southwestern salsas, Indian chutneys, Thai curries, Mexican enchiladas, Chinese stir-fries, Texan chili con carne, Cajun hot sauce and many other recipes. But for a smokier flavor, try chipotle peppers, which are actually dried, smoked jalapeno peppers. Their smoky-sweet flavor is often used in Southwestern and Mexican dishes. Add a dash to liven up everything from chili to barbequed fare.

Freshly ground black pepper is popular in a wide variety of foods, works well in combination with other herbs and spices and is commonly found in spice blends. To change things up, try using Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper instead of black pepper to add an exotic twist to recipes. Gourmet Sichuan pepper is grown in China and offers an unusual, pungent flavor that begins as warm and lemon-like with woodsy overtones and finishes with a more intense bite. It intensifies the flavor of fish, poultry, cheese, and vegetables.

You’ve probably been using vanilla extract to flavor all kinds of desserts, beverages and other dishes. One way to ramp up the flavor is to switch to vanilla beans instead of using the liquid extract. Simply substitute one vanilla bean for each teaspoon of extract, cooking it with the liquid used in the recipe and then removing it. The most common type of vanilla, Bourbon vanilla beans, are grown in Madagascar and are very aromatic with a full, rich taste. But to bump up the flavor, try Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, cultivated in the lowlands of the Pacific Basin. They have a fruitier taste than that of the Bourbon beans, with some notes of cherry that add a deep, longlasting flavor to ice creams, frosting, and many beverages.

Nutmeg is the dried seed of the fruit of an evergreen, which most often comes in ground form. However, nutmeg, like many spices, loses both flavor and aroma after it’s ground. Instead, buy whole nutmeg and grind it yourself using a special nutmeg grater or a fine grater. Grinding it fresh produces a much more robust and fresher flavor. Warm and sweet, nutmeg adds depth to desserts, cheeses, savory dishes and a variety of vegetables. Don’t forget to sprinkle it on eggnog, mulled wines and punches. Mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious with a light dusting of nutmeg, too.

With just a few simple substitutions like these, you can go beyond the everyday with your spices and create a whole new meal experience. You’ll be amazed at the difference small changes like these can make — and you’ll have fun bringing new, creative flavors into your cooking.

Don’t forget, it’s easy to try these spices by buying from the bulk section, because you only buy the amount you need.

Here’s an easy recipe that allows you to experiment with some varieties of the spices above.

Pumpkin Parfait

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons sugar
6 ounces lowfat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup granola with raisins

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, milk, and sugar. In 2 small bowls or ramekins, layer the pumpkin mixture and yogurt. Sprinkle with granola.

Layer in a parfait glass for a fun visual treat.

The Tea Ritual

14 Jul

Many of our customers tell us their favorite product from our company is our tea. In fact, one of our customers loved the Earl Grey tea her local cafe served, so she asked them what kind it was. No one working there would tell her, saying it was their special blend. As she was leaving, another patron said, “It’s Frontier. I used to work here, I know. ” She ordered from us, and began enjoying her favorite Earl Grey cup of tea at home, too.

The traditions and rituals of tea date back to at least 2737 B.C. in ancient China. A popular myth claims that tea was born when a Chinese emperor and herbalist was boiling water and leaves from a nearby tree fell into the water. He discovered that when the leaves were infused in hot water, the beverage created was delicious. The Chinese then went on to explore what they referred to as “tea mind” — a calm, yet alert state they achieved when drinking this concoction.

This exploration continues today — amazingly, tea is the second most widely-consumed beverage in the world, only behind water. Tasting tea has become an art form, as well as, in some cases, a science. There are so many kinds of tea available today that some newcomers might be overwhelmed by what to try first.

One consistent fact is that all tea comes from the same species of plant, Camellia sinensis. (Other plants are infused like tea leaves but are technically tisanes, not true teas.) The variances arise because different varieties are grown in different places and in different ways, different plant parts are used (leaves, leaf buds, and internodes) and there are different processing methods. But in all cases, the aromatic beverage that results when the cured leaves are combined with hot or boiling water is what tea drinkers celebrate.

The state of mind many tea drinkers cultivate is to relax, slow down and “appreciate the moment.” Finding the right tea for that moment starts with a basic understanding of the main types of tea. By trying different kinds of tea you will be able to decide what you like best for different occasions. You might want to buy small quantities of a tea to sample it before buying a large amount. Buying bulk tea offers you this opportunity – as well as the highest quality tea, since tea bags usually contain siftings from leaves.

Here’s a quick rundown on types of tea:

Black teas are produced by withering, rolling and drying fresh tea leaves. This process oxidizes the leaf and allows many unique aroma and flavor elements to form. The robustness of black tea lends itself to the addition of sugar, honey, lemon, cream and milk. While black teas have more caffeine than green or white teas, they still have considerably less than a cup of coffee.

Chai is a special flavored tea beverage created in India. Traditional chai is a strong black tea infused with aromatic Indian spices, including black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and others.  Most chai teas contain caffeine levels similar to black tea.

Green tea is uncured and possesses fresh, grassy, vegetal flavors due to its unique processing. Green tea leaves are plucked, withered, rolled and dried before any curing or oxidation takes place. Green teas have the least caffeine – and the highest levels of beneficial antioxidants — of all true teas (Camellia sinensis).

Oolong is only partially oxidized after the fresh leaves are plucked and withered. Before the leaves are fully cured, a quick drying preserves the flavor and aroma elements of the green leaf and combines them with black tea characteristics that arise from the partial curing. Oolong has slightly less caffeine than black tea, but slightly more than green teas.

White tea is made from the very young, unfurled leaf tips of Camellia sinensis. The delicate young leaves and buds are covered with soft, silvery white hairs…thus “white” tea. White teas are generally uncured in the style of green teas and are similarly very low in caffeine.

Herbal Teas (Tisanes) are beverages brewed from herbs (or combinations of herbs) other than Camellia sinensis. The herbs are blended to create unique flavors and/or desired health benefits. Herbal teas do not contain caffeine and offer their own opportunities for achieving the “tea mind.” These teas can be refreshing, calming, invigorating– or simply a delight to the senses.

Here are some basic suggestions for brewing the perfect cup of tea:

• Make sure your tea has been properly stored. The best way to store tea is in an airtight container, at a constant temperature, away from light, moisture, and other odors. Once exposed to air, tea leaves quickly lose flavor. Keep bulk teas in a large container, and use a smaller one for daily tea use, so you don’t have to keep opening the large container.

• Use fresh, cool, oxygenated water. Never use tepid, long-standing, pre-heated or hot tap water.

• Heat the water and pour it directly over the leaves. (Use about one teaspoon of tea per cup.) For green teas, heat it to the point where bubbles just begin to form. For oolong teas, heat the water until the bubbles start to release and it is beginning to boil. For black tea, allow the water to come to a gentle boil.

• Steep the tea in an infuser — about three to four minutes for green tea and four to five minutes for oolong and black tea. Don’t overpack the infuser so the leaves have enough room to unfurl completely. Or simply steep the loose leaves and then pour the brewed tea through a strainer into a serving cup.

• Perfect tea is brewed one cup at a time. Personal tastes, vary, of course — you’ll want to adjust the measurements and brewing times according to your own preferences.

Try making this wonderful exotic blend yourself:

BEDOUIN TEA

Bedouins have their own special blends of teas that they make from the dried leaves of various desert plants. On special occasions, they mix the leaves from those plants with other spices. Many tourists have tea with the Bedouins they meet and then buy the blends to take home as a reminder of their amazing experiences. Bedouin tea is quite expensive because it is scarce. In the United States, dried thyme or sage can be substituted for the Bedouin tea.

Ingredients

4 teaspoons Bedouin tea or 4 teaspoons dried thyme or sage

4 teaspoons dried organic rosebuds

1 stick cinnamon

4 teaspoons loose black tea, regular or decaffeinated

sugar, if desired

Directions

Heat 4 1/2 cups water, Bedouin tea, dried rosebuds, cinnamon stick, and loose black tea in a teapot or saucepan over high heat. Once the water boils, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and steep the tea, covered, for 5 minutes. Strain into tea cups and sweeten with sugar, if desired.

What’s your favorite tea ritual? Please share.

Guest Post: Sri Lanka Sourcing Trip, by Tony Bedard

15 Jun

Today’s post is by Frontier CEO Tony Bedard, who accompanied Purchasing Manager Kai Stark to visit Well Earth partner SOFA, the Small Organic Farmers Association, in Sri Lanka. For more about SOFA and the Frontier-funded Training Center there, see our website article, Organic Training in Sri Lanka.

At least once a year I try to make a sourcing trip with a member of our purchasing team. I not only get a better understanding of the work of our purchasing staff, but the trips give me firsthand knowledge of our relationships with our grower partners. I can then share what I learn with our employees, our board, the media, and our customers.

Early this year, I accompanied Kai Stark on a trip to Sri Lanka — an island nation off the southeast coast of India. Sri Lanka is roughly half the size of Iowa with seven times as many people.

Until 1972 it was known as Ceylon — the source of true Ceylon cinnamon. Sri Lanka is the center of the Buddhist religion and culture. It’s a very beautiful island with lush tropical forests and a very diverse landscape. It’s also said to have beautiful white beaches, although we didn’t get to see any of those.

The island was prized for its location on a main shipping route early on, and it was colonized by the Dutch, then the Portuguese, and finally the British before gaining its independence as Sri Lanka in 1948. I guess this partly explains why they drive on the wrong side of the road (to us, anyway). Sri Lankans showed us time and again that they had no problem passing into oncoming traffic or driving on the shoulder of the road.

It takes a lot of travel time to get to and from Sri Lanka. On our trip home, we left at what was 9:00 AM Saturday morning back home in Iowa and arrived here at 10:30 PM on Sunday night, worn out by two ten-hour flights, a couple long layovers and another two-hour flight from Dallas.

After a similar long flight on the way there, we landed in Colombo and drove to a city called Kandy, where we met with our supplier partners. The company has a number of facilities around the city of Kandy that process and package cinnamon, cloves, lemon grass, ginger, nutmeg, and teas along with a few other spices and herbs.

While we found their plant and facilities to be very nice and the employees extremely positive, it was even more impressive to see the network of over 2000 small organic farmers — most of whom farm less than two acres of land to support their families. While in the fields, we saw how the farmers grew and processed the nutmeg and cinnamon that we buy.

We’re glad that Frontier’s purchases allow the farmers to earn a 10-15% premium for growing organic products.

One of our primary goals for the trip was to check on the progress of a new training center near Dambulla, in the central part of Sri Lanka. The training center includes roughly 100 acres of experimental farm ground where growers can get both classroom and hands-on training in growing organically and bio-dynamically. During the first year after the center opened, over 120 farmers were trained — some from as far away as Pakistan.

It was a joy and a privilege to see firsthand the impact that our business with them has on the growers and other workers and their families and communities. We can all be proud that our work here at Frontier has such a positive impact on people halfway around the world.

Tony Bedard, far right.

Kai Stark, left.

Check out the Frontier website for more information and a video about this sourcing trip to Sri Lanka.

A Local Gathering to Promote Local Foods in Schools

24 May

Last night we attended a gathering we told you about earlier: Cool Aid! a fundraiser at the Onteora Middle School/High School Cafeteria, in Boiceville New York. Cool-Aid proceeds will fund the purchase of a walk-in freezer for the central kitchen of the Onteora Schools.

The walk-in freezer will allow the cooks at the school to effectively extend the growing season for locally sourced produce, reduce waste of plentiful fresh foods, and increase nutrition by freezing fruits and vegetables picked at the height of their nutritive value.

We’re here to say the event was a great success!  Maxanne Resnick and a large group of volunteers worked to bring the idea to life.  This group included students who helped serve and did an impeccable job keeping the tables clean.

The line-up of local chefs provides a look at the array of culinary talent and the intriguing regional cuisine in this area.  The chefs included Dan Leader, Giovanni Scappin, Curt Robair, Bill Warnes, Ric Orlando, Devin Mills, Pika Roels, and Kevin Katz.

The chefs were paired up with a regional farmer of their choice and two students, and together they served up tasty and healthy foods that anyone, especially kids, could make.

Each hors d’ouevre was $2 each, and trust us, we ate like kings.

The live music, silent auction, food crafts for kids, juicer and smoothie bars, plus an array of other presentations made this an event for all ages. Watching the members of the community chat and enjoy great food together made it fun and memorable.

Check out some photos from the evening.

More details about the chefs.

Frontier was happy to help sponsor the event, and we hope this idea might inspire you to find ways to help schools or any other institutions in your area move towards using more fresh ingredients from local sources.

Please let us know about your local food projects!

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