The History of the Cinnamon Star.

It’s a common holiday item that can be seen on store shelves or fresh out of the oven in kitchens. Have you ever wondered what is the cinnamon star, also known as zimtsterne in German, all about? And did you know at one point cinnamon stars were considered illegal in Germany? And speaking of “points”, the traditional cinnamon star has 6 points! Let’s dig into the history of the cinnamon star!

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The cinnamon star arrives during the Christmas holiday season and is offered during the Advent season. Made with almonds and cinnamon, these little stars are full of flavor. Back in the 1600s, cinnamon in Europe was expensive and a rare spice and almonds had to be imported. Food items such as these were usually considered reserved for royalty. Since cinnamon and almonds were expensive and scarce, this helps offer a reason as to why these two staples were only enjoyed one time a year at special occasions like Christmas. Traditionally these zimtsternes are baked before Advent, stored and shared during the holiday season. (Source: The Spruce)

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And so what is this about cinnamon stars being illegal in Germany? I stumbled upon this NPR archive when searching for the history of cinnamon stars. Well, back in 2006, a scientist in a government food safety lab smelled something strange. The scent was bitter and strong and it turned out to be coumarin.

Medical Definition of coumarin: a toxic white crystalline lactone C9H6O2 with an odor of new-mown hay found in plants or made synthetically and used especially in perfumery and as the parent compound in various anticoagulant agents (as warfarin); also : a derivative of this compound (Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online)

Coumarin found in cinnamon can have a toxic effect on the human liver. The scientist at the government food safety lab found coumarin levels up to 40 times higher than what is traditionally allowed. By the time it was discovered how much coumarin was in the Christmas cookie, many of them were already packaged and placed upon store shelves waiting to be purchased. Officials hemmed and hawed on what to do about the situation and in the end decided to alert consumers not to eat too many or too much of any food with cinnamon in it. You can bet that political lobbyists have had their way and sway within the German government. Coumarin levels in German food was supposed to drop to legal levels after that particular holiday season. Rest assured, cinnamon stars are no longer illegal in Germany, but what an interesting turn of events that happened just over 10 years ago! (Source: National Public Radio)

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Take it from me, and my little elves, we all agree that the cinnamon stars are delicious and we promise not to eat too many at one time! As most traditional treats I’ve been posting about this holiday season, these cinnamon stars are delish with coffee or tea! These specific cinnamon stars are made by Wicklein.

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Proud to Provide Local Flavor.

I’d like to start out this post by saying it’s time we take a look at our local shops and stores. In the next few weeks and months ahead, I want to highlight the variety of different places that are around West Michigan (and hopefully beyond), and share with you all what’s unique about each! So don’t worry, we hope to make it around to all our local friends of Gourmet International and share our local flavor!

We have an opportunity to connect with Kingma’s Market this weekend to feature Butlers Chocolates, Hachez Chocolates and some tasty treats from Wicklein! Stop on out to the Ada location of Kingma’s Market from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, December 9.

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Kingma’s Market has been a staple serving the community for 80 years with its main storefront located on Plainfield Avenue. Just this past year, Kingma’s opened a new location in Ada, Michigan, where the downtown revitalization is hopping. Many in the area had awaited the grand opening, offering shoppers a variety of meats, cheeses, local and imported beers and wines, bulk food items and more.

Originally located in the Boston Square area of Grand Rapids, Kingma’s Market was originally owned and founded by the Kingma family. In 2014, Alan Hartline purchased the store from the family and has continued to expand the company and the many products offered within its shelves.

Proud to provide local flavor to the community, Kingma’s Market provides all natural, local meats, a range of Michigan based fresh produce, roasted coffee, honey, dairy products and more! By partnering with Fish Lads and Carvers Finest Meats of Grand Rapids, the local residents can be assured that they are purchasing quality fish, meats and poultry.

So stop in and visit some of Gourmet team at Kingma’s tomorrow if you are local! We’d love to meet you and we’d love it for you to stop by and say hello! While you’re there, pick up some holiday items for yourself or for your loved ones! Nibble, nibble with us!

Some information from this post was obtained by MLive and Kingma’s Market websites.

Cookie Assortment!

It’s time to recap the delicious, tasty, yummy assortment of cookies I’ve shared thus far, because it’s National Cookie Day! So today’s post is dedicated to the many cookies we love to nibble on! What is your favorite cookie? Share with us your favorites! There are more cookies to come, but for now, enjoy the ones below! Some of these are just in time for the holidays and perfect for gift giving and sharing! Below are links to the cookie posts and then beyond that – let your eyes wonder at the tasty cookies in the galleries!

Wicklein Burggraf Lebkuchen with nuts.

Wicklein Pfeffernüsse Cookie.

Wicklein Chocolate Covered Eilsen-Gingerbread.

Shortbread House of Edinburgh.

Bahlsen Hit Sandwich Cookies.

Ambrosiana Ferri Di Cavallo Shortbread with Dark Chocolate

Ambrosiana Fior Di Neve Chocolate Hazelnut Cream Shortbread.

Ambrosiana Pralinati Hazelnut Cream Shortbread.

Jacobsens Butter Cookies.

 

 

A Post Not to Take Gingerly.

Now that I have your attention, you may have guessed this post may be contain something with “ginger” within it. Well, you guessed correctly! It’s National Gingerbread Cookie Day, but while you may be thinking of the cute little Gingerbread Man when you think of the cookie, we like to think of the the true gingerbread form.

Follow our Instagram for #InTheKnowMan and follow our Twitter for #TravelingSanta to get holiday info and advice!

An earlier blog post had us traveling through Germany with our Vice President Monica. She can be seen below in Germany at Wicklein making her own gingerbread! You won’t see the traditional cute little guy or gal that would be running away from the fox! We are talking about the original, true, Nürnberg lebkuchen a.k.a. gingerbread!

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This original gingerbread is packed with flavor from spices and nuts and this treat is savored all around the world at this time of year! So we encourage you to go out and pick up yourself some gingerbread – hopefully the true and original kind – and enjoy the taste of National Gingerbread Cookie Day!

Travels Through and Near Nüremberg.

While I wished I was along to take these photos, the photos throughout this post for today come from Monica, our Vice President at Gourmet International. As our team was traveling to Germany for the Anuga trade show in Cologne, they also happened to stop at the Wicklein Store in Nüremberg and at Riegelein in nearby Cadolzburg.

From one of my earlier posts, we shared that the famous German gingerbread or traditional Lebkuchen, as it is called, made by Wicklein, has arrived to the warehouse for holiday orders. The team stopped into the “Die Lubküchnerei”, the Lebkuchen Bakery. Here, one can enjoy the scent of festive spices and the fresh aroma of coffee with a tasty pastry. If visiting, and you want to learn how to bake Lebkuchen, they offer workshops! How cool is that! You get to learn how to prepare and bake Lebkuchen, take them home with you and more! Check out the website for more information. It is something you would have to plan and book ahead of time, so be sure to sign up in advance!

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Another stop on their travels in Germany, the team stopped at Riegelein to check out the chocolate shop and watch chocolate makers performing their work at “Chocothek“. Riegelein is known all across Europe and across the globe for its German chocolate products. They make wonderful chocolate figurines for every holiday: Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day – even New Year’s Day – and MORE! Riegelein is a family-owned company, started by baker and confectionery master Hans Riegelein and his wife Gerda back in 1953. The company, in 1998, has now passed down to the reigns to Peter Riegelein, marking the second generation running the traditional family-owned company. I don’t know about you, but looking at all those figures on display in the photos below are making me crave some delectable chocolate!

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Growing up, I recall my mom buying Riegelein chocolates during the holidays, most notably, Christmas time. The Christmas figures are what I recall from my youth, being stuffed inside my stocking or maybe mom had (or even still does!) put a little tray of mini Santas or St. Nicholas’ out on Christmas Eve for us to nibble nibble on! And I am quite sure it was a Riegelein Advent Calendar that my brothers and I were always eager to open every day leading up to Christmas! Now, who thinks that next time I should tag along…? Nibble hint, nibble hint!? (Tee hee!)

Arrival of Holiday Lebkuchen in the Warehouse.

For those of you officially counting down the days to Christmas, we present you the link to the XmasClock. To be honest, I didn’t really want to write an actual number down, because I am afraid to look. I don’t want to know the actual number of days it is, so a link you shall receive!

We even had this guy stop by to help us announce that these products are in!

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Our new warehouse is starting to get filled with many holiday favorites! Various types of chocolates, hard candies, cookies, cakes, Advent Calendars, and so much more are filling the warehouse! We cannot forget some of our favorite German delicacies that we enjoy as the holidays arrive. We are talking about Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and Pfefferkuchen (peppernut cookies), which traditional roots can be traced all the way back to the 13th century and are made in Nüremberg. Wicklein call their product “real Nüremberg Gingerbread”.

Take a look below, on top is the Wicklein Burggraf Lebkuchen with nuts. Below that is the Wicklein Pfeffernüsse Cookie.

From the Wicklein website:

“The exact composition of the Lebkuchen-dough is, of course, both then and now a well kept secret. But the basic ingredients remain the same: Eggs, flour and honey. Hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. Candied orange and lemon peel and – essential for the taste – the spices: aniseed, ginger, coriander, cloves, pimento, mace, cardamom and cinnamon.”

We also have Mini-Elisen Lebkuchen (see photos below), which is a type of German gingerbread that contains little to no flour, so the primary base is made of ground hazelnuts and almonds. Elisen Lebkuchen must not exceed 10 percent flour content and must have 25 percent nuts. The nut content helps keep the Lebkuchen extremely moist and delicious! In order for these cookies to hold together, they must be placed on oblaten wafers. What are oblaten wafers? Well, they are basically, a cookie wafer on the bottom of cookies. From my research they may resemble Communion wafers and are actually made in the same manner. The Elisen Lebkuchen was named after the daughter of a Nüremberg gingerbread maker.

In order to be officially allowed to have the legal protection as a geographical designation of origin, Wicklein’s most important requirement to carry the famous “Nürnberger Lebkuchen” title is to manufacture their products within the Nüremberg city limits. Wicklein has held this designation since 1996 and it is recognized all throughout Europe.

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These Lebkuchen are delicious, moist, flavorful (the spices are soooo good!) and you can taste tradition that has been proudly kept and passed down the many centuries! So you better not pout, and you better not cry… otherwise the big fella dressed in red won’t be showing up this holiday season! Enjoy the nibbles I’ve left for you today!