Spice Sense – Saffron

Saffron is an exquisite spice with an illustrious past. It is a triple play on the senses. Saffrons honey-tinged odor, unique taste and intense shade are simply infused into a variety of dishes. There is actually nothing like it and completely no substitute for it.

Why is saffron the costliest spice? There aren’t any trendy shortcuts to its harvest. Fifty to seventy-5 thousand flowers are needed to produce one pound. Intense manual labor is involved in extracting the 3 stigma in every flower over the course of 1 or two weeks, because the flowers bloom and before they wilt.

Intimidated by its price many leave it out or do not cook recipes that call for this spice. Really, so little is required in any one recipe that, per dish, it can impart exotic flavor with little effort or expense. However, when you pick up a bottle at the grocery store you’re getting more saffron than you need and no evidence of its quality. The spice connoisseurs could also be in a position to depend on their refined sense of sight, taste and scent but the regular consumer wants standards.

Saffron Quality

Saffron quality is graded in line with laboratory measurements. The International Standards Organization (ISO) established a uniform set of standards for grading – ISO 3632. The defining characteristics of crocin (shade), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content are evaluated. Basically a photospectometry report by licensed labs will give the saffron sample a grade relying on the color. Deeper saturated shade is an indication of intense perfume, and full flavor.

The grades range from less than eighty (for all category IV ) up to one hundred ninety or larger (for class I). The worlds very finest saffron (the red-maroon suggestions of stigmas picked from the finest flowers) obtain scores around 250 degrees of colour strength. Market prices follow directly from these ISO scores. You get what you pay for. Class I usually has colour strength of only a hundred ninety degrees.

Sadly, most retailers don’t know the quality of the spice they sell. They presume that each one saffron is created equal. Until you find a reputable supplier it is greatest to purchase within the smallest quantity available. It ought to be stored away from light and protected from humidity. If possible look for deep colored stigma with very little or no lighter colored strands. A boring red colour can usually be a sign of age.

Cooking with saffron

Saffron has an unusual and unmistakable perfume, usually described as “hay-like”. Use it with a light hand if you cook so that you just experience its bitter- sweet earthiness. Be warned that an excessive amount of will render a dish bitter. The yellow/orange colour that it imparts on different ingredients makes it spectacular in dishes which are predominantly white, similar to rice and cream sauces. When the perfect saffron is used within the correct proportions it lends its class to a multitude of ingredients (seafood, meat, vegetables, rice and grains) and can also take a easy spice blend and elevate it. Strive adding a little to curry powder, garam masala or a moroccan seasoning to take it from odd to extraordinary. It combines well with garlic, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, tomatoes and potatoes. The cuisines of India, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Morocco and Spain all use saffron in their greatest regional dishes. Spanish Paella eloquently highlights the spice’s affinity with rice and seafood.


The next recipes are easy and show you how to get to know saffron. A quick note on its use…

When using saffron threads, plan to steep them for 5 minutes in something sizzling, acidic or alcoholic, whichever ingredient is in the recipe. Don’t attempt to steep in oil as it is only water soluble. The steeping process extracts the aroma, taste and shade so that it might be evenly distributed by way of a dish.

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