Just thought before you use this wonderful spice that it would be great to read an interesting article on it. I have spent some time today going into the history of it.....love the origin of things, this is just "one" article...there are so many....
Recipes to come soon.All About Saffron
by Sandra Bowens
Imagine taking a spice that costs $50 an ounce and using it to dye, say, a sweater? Probably wouldn't happen these days but saffron has been used as a natural yellow dye.
Nor would you fill your pillow with saffron to prevent a hangover, as the early Romans did following a feast. Today's market prices are still in line with the Middle Ages, however, when you could trade a pound of saffron for a horse.
So why the hefty price tag, you may be wondering? Every step in the cultivation of the world's most expensive spice is done by hand. Saffron is the dried stigma of the purple saffron crocus. Crocus sativus
is a member of the iris family. It blooms for only two or three weeks in autumn.
The flowers are picked by hand and then the reddish-orange stigmas, only three per flower, are plucked from each bloom. The "threads" are spread onto a sieve and cured over heat for half an hour to dry and deepen the flavor.
Native to southern Europe and Asia Minor, Spain is the world's largest grower and exporter of saffron. It takes 210,000 stigmas from 70,000 flowers to make up one pound. A one-acre plot will yield 8 to 12 pounds of the spice.
Saffron is said to symbolize the necessity of guarding against excess. If you go overboard with it in a recipe, you will wind up with a medicinal taste. Use just the right amount and saffron will impart a pleasant, somewhat spicy yet bitter flavor to a dish.
Most recipes will call for a "good pinch" of the threads. Just a quarter teaspoon will season rice for four or six people. Cookbook authors often recommend soaking the threads in water or milk before adding to a recipe. This also encourages that gorgeous yellow color to shine through.
The word saffron is derived from the Arabic word za'faran
This pretty spice is common to fish and rice dishes in several cuisines. It is essential to a French bouillabaisse
, the shellfish and fish stew. Spanish cooks consider it a must for paella
, an exquisite dish of rice and seafood, as well as for arroz con pollo
, chicken with rice. Risotto Milanese is the Italian offering for saffron rice. You might also try it as a seasoning for soups, potatoes or tomato dishes.
Don't let the expense of saffron keep you from cooking with it. As noted above, a little goes a long way. Generally, when you splurge on an ounce, you get it in a decorative tin for about $50. Still too much? You can get a gram for $8 from Pendery's or half a gram for $3.75 from King Arthur's Baker's Catalog (see links
Look for the whole threads rather than buying the powdered form. As far back as 1 A.D. Pliny warned folks that saffron was a "frequently falsified commodity." Buy from a reputable spice dealer and avoid "Mexican saffron," which is usually safflower.
Store your saffron in a well-sealed container away from light and heat, like the rest of your spices. If you are concerned about theft, do what the restaurant chefs do: Lock it in the safe!