If you can find the sweeter, thin-textured Cinnamomum zeylanicum variety of cinnamon, use it for all spice blends because it is more pleasing in flavor and easier to grind than the more common C. cassia, which tends to be bitter and very brittle. Chinese healers always take into account the five flavors—salty, sour, sweet, pungent and bitter. This seasoning roughly imitates these qualities. MAKES 1⁄4 CUP
• 1 (2-inch) piece cinnamon
• 10 whole cloves
• 8 whole star anise
• 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
• 2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
1. Break or crush cinnamon into small pieces. Using a mortar and pestle or small electric grinder, pound or grind herbs until finely ground.
2. Transfer to a small dark-colored jar, label and store in a cool, dark place for up to 4 months.
Author of 12 cookbooks including her latest, Everyday Flexitarian (Whitecap Books, 2011), Pat Crocker is a culinary herbalist and green cook.
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