I got an enormous craving yesterday for cinnamon. I didn’t really care in what form. Cinnamon hearts or cinnamon gum, anything strongly cinnamon flavored would do. Actually, what I was really craving was sujeonggwa, a Korean cinnamon and persimmon punch. It’s served as a dessert cold often with several pine nuts floating on the surface of a small cup in Korea.
My grandmother on my mother’s side used to make this punch at her home when I was a child and she was a strong, constantly moving woman, very much like my mother now. She is now bedridden and suffers from dementia. I haven’t seen my grandmother in twelve years. There was a year or more when my mother and I lived with her and grandfather at their farm house. My father was living in Canada for business and they couldn’t afford to have their own place in Korea while he was away.
I loved living at my grandmother’s place. My cousin, the son of my mother’s oldest brother, was the same age as me so we played together all the time. My grandmother was helping her son raising his little boy and girl because my aunt, their mother, was institutionalized. Turned out she was mentally imbalanced. I don’t have the details yet.
I was allowed to run around with unbridled freedom in the small rural town with my cousin from dawn til dusk, sometimes with shoes. Sometimes, grandmother would give us some money and we would race over to the only convenience store in the area and figure out which toy we could buy. We amused ourselves frog fishing with fruit laden grassy stems covered in saliva hung over the rice paddies, trapping enormous black ants in a plastic bowls and then drowning them by filling the bowl with water. Sometimes we would hike over to a nearby brook and go wading.
Late in the afternoon, my grandmother would ladle out water from the enormous rubber tub filled earlier that day and left to warm in the summer sun and pour it over our naked bodies, soap us down from head to toe, brown water running off the edge of the concrete platform and onto the dirt courtyard, and then ladle more water over us to wash off the soap. Sometime she let us jump into the rubber tub and dry us off in the late yellow light of early sunset.
Afterwards, my grandmother would ask what I wanted for dinner. She made a fabulous spicy stewed mackerel. So, with some money in hand, I was told to go to the fish monger and bring back the mackerel for her to cook.
After dinner we’d go to sleep and the day would start all over again in the morning.
Cinnamon makes me think of my grandmother.
Cinnamon Cookies (Adapted from Food.com)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
cinnamon sugar (1 tbsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar and butter using a hand mixer or a mixer; beat in egg and vanilla.
Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and stir in using a spatula until well blended.
You may want to cover and refrigerate for an hour or until its firm enough to roll into balls. My dough was firm enough so I didn’t bother with this step although I did put the dough into the fridge while a batch was baking.
To make the cinnamon sugar, just swirl the sugar and cinnamon in a plastic container. A round deep container will make it easy to swirl the cookie balls around without spills.
Shape dough into small balls about 3/4-inch in diameter and roll in cinnamon sugar to coat.
Set cookies 1-inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cool slightly on pans and then remove to racks to cool completely.
For more photos, go to Flickr.