Saffron: It's Everyday Use

Published: 29th September 2011
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Saffron, besides being one of the most exotic and commonly used spices is also the world’s most expensive spice. This has something to do with the fact that in each flower there is only 3 saffron threads. On top of that the only way to extract them is by humans going out and plucking each single thread. All of this along with the fact that it takes 13,000 threads to weigh in at just one ounce and you can see why it’s easily the world’s most expensive spice.

Purchasing the Best Saffron

There are two methods to purchasing saffron, in its natural form, or in a powdered form. I’d most probably go with its natural form since a lot of the time in its powdered form it is cut with cheaper spices such as turmeric or paprika. When purchasing the whole threads they should have a bright red or deep orange color to them, with the tips being of a lighter orange color. This helps distinguish they’re of a high quality and haven’t been dyed.

As with most spices the best way to store them for use is in a dark cool place, and will slowly lose its flavor but will never become unusable.

Using Saffron

The Romans were the first to start cultivating saffron for use in things such as fragrances, soaps, but above all for cooking. It is well known throughout the world to be a staple in certain traditional dishes such as paella or bouillabaisse. But it can be used as an uniquely flavored spice to add to almost any dish!

The number one rule to stick to when cooking with saffron is to not use excessive amounts. To put this in perspective 1/2 tsp would be enough for a paella dish for 6 people. If used to excess it takes on a metallic medicinal flavoring.

There are a lot of recipes out there which call for the use of saffron, and it’s impossible to list them all here, however below are two of the most common ways of it’s use.

One method is soaking the threads in a liquid, be it broth or water, and then using this liquid to place directly into the dish. Another method is to first crush the threads and grind them down, then add them any broth. Many of the most common uses include soaking the saffron in water while heating the liquid, which lets the flavor of the saffron slowly seep out.

For the best extraction of flavor from the saffron the preferred method is to add roughly 3 tsp of liquid for every 1 tsp of saffron and let the threads soak for a full two hours which will expand the saffron for later use. However, if you are following a specific recipe always go by what they are telling you.

Variations of Saffron

Saffron produced in Spain is regarded as the best saffron produced in the world. The highest quality is "Mancha" which refers to its deep red coloring of the threads. Other lower quality saffron’s will have a yellower color as spoken about before. Since the flavor of the spice comes from the rich red, it just means you are purchasing more waste.

How to Use Saffron

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