Made from the crocus flower’s stigma, saffron is easily the most expensive spice in the world at about $2000 per pound! Though the taste of saffron is complex and unique, many say that it has notes of vanilla and hay, and a slightly bitter or earthy taste.
Saffron is used to enhance both the taste and color of a dish and imparts a lovely yellow hue along with a distinct flavor. Saffron is famously used in classic dishes like Risotto Milanesa, Paella Valenciana, St Lucia buns, and Bouillabaisse.
Saffron is grown mostly in India, Iran, Spain, and Italy, although there are some artisan growers popping up in New Zealand and Australia.
Look for good red color. The redder the better! It should be relatively easy to identify color quality with whole string saffron. Powdered Saffron is a bit more challenging but it is also a bit easier on the wallet.
Saffron’s cost comes in part from the way in which it is harvested. The small and delicate stigmas from the Crocus Sativus flower from which saffron comes has just three stigmas that must be hand-collected. Further, the plant does not reproduce on its own, and thus requires human intervention.
It take 60 to 80 thousand flowers to produce a mere pound of saffron at the cost of 20 hours of manual labor to collect the flowers.
Photo spectrometric machines are used to measure the color of the saffron, which is critical because the value lies in the color.
Use saffron sparingly; most recipes call for just a few tiny threads of saffron!
Before cooking with saffron, allow it to soak in water or white wine for five minutes.
Saffron can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Try swapping a few threads for vanilla in custards and cookies.
Add Saffron to white rice for an intensely colorful and fragrant dish.
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