Thyme for Tea

Tea Parties: December: A Cinnamon Tea




This month, China and Ruby have invited all their friends to drop in for a holiday tea party celebrating cinnamon! If you can't join them, create your own tea party or borrow a recipe or twofor your own holiday celebration.

Lore

Cinnamon is a native of Ceylon. This spice (like many others) is also considered an herb, because it has been used both medicinally and for ritual purposes. It is native to Asia, where it is harvested from cinnamon and cassia trees. At harvest, the tree's upper branches are cut and the inner bark carefully peeled. It curls as it dries, producing the "sticks" you see in stores. Older bark (also more flavorful) is chipped from the trunk and ground.

Cinnamon was used by ancient Egyptians in both sacred ritual and embalming. Oil distilled from the bark has been used to relieve nausea and vomiting and to treat diarrhea, and the 12th-century German herbalist Hildegard of Bingen recommended it to treat colds, flu, and cancer. It is also used in incense and perfume, and is said to act as a sexual stimulant. The spice was so highly prized that empires were founded on its trade.

Decorations

You've probably already decorated for the Christmas holiday. But here are three ideas for your cinnamon tea party:

  • Glue cinnamon sticks around a small terra cotta pot. Tie with a red ribbon and fill with cinnamoncandies.
  • For an easy centerpiece that the kids will enjoy making, arrange 6-10" rosemary branches on a small tray. Insert cloves into three oranges in a decorative patter. Pyramid the oranges in the center of the rosemary, and insert 3" cinnamon sticks into the arrangement. Decorate with small tree ornaments and ribbon.
  • Reinvigorate tired potpourri by adding cinnamon chips or sticks and 10-15 drops of cinnamon oil. Add a ribbon, a few tree ornaments and some sprigs of rosemary.

Menu

Cinnamon lends itself to a wide variety of tea-party goodies. In addition to a selection of savory tea sandwiches, China and Ruby are serving sweets:

Recipes

Gingerbread

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup boiling water

Mix together sugar, butter, molasses, spices, and flour. Add baking soda to boiling water, then add to mix. Turn into a square baking pan, and bake at 325° for 30 minutes.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

  • 2 c. milk
  • 2 c. whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. sugar

Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar dissolves. Freeze in your ice cream maker, according tomanufacturer's directions. Serve tiny scoops with gingerbread.

Cinnamon-Pumpkin Drop Cookies

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (dark is best)
  • ¾ cup margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs. Mix in pumpkin. Combine dry ingredients. Blend intocreamed mixture. Mix well. Stir in raisins and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake in 375° oven until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen.

Cinnamon-Spice Shortbread

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups margarine
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon each allspice and nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar

Cream together sugar and butter. Combine flour and spices and add to the sugar mixture, 1 cup at a time. Lightly oil a 9x12" cake pan, and press dough evenly into pan. Cut dough into small squares or diamonds. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake in a preheated 300° oven for 50-55 minutes, or until lightly browned. When you take this out of the oven, cut the shortbread along the original marks and remove from the pan to cool.

Cinnamon-Cranberry Glog

  • 4 quarts cranberry juice
  • 1 orange, sliced thin
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 8 whole allspice
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Heat cranberry juice until just warm. Add all ingredients and warm (do not boil) for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain glog into a punchbowl or crock, or into individual mugs.