My friends often point out that saffron is too expensive when I recommend using it. My answer is “It isn’t If you know how to brew saffron”. Saffron’s high cost is because the threads are the real stigma of a particular crocus flower and must be harvested by hand. Fortunately, a little bit of it goes a long way. Too much saffron can ruin a dish with an overpowering, medicinal taste. So in practice, saffron costs not much more than most seasonings.
Saffron is not a spice one would eat raw. Raw saffron does not have a pleasant taste. It is quite bitter. Never throw saffron threads whole into your cooking.
How to brew saffron to draw out the maximum flavor, colour, and aroma?
Brewing Saffron in Hot Water:
The best way to extract flavor is to soak the threads in hot (not boiling) liquid for about 10 minutes before using. Then use the liquid to make saffron tea or add it to the dish, usually towards the end of cooking.
Brewing Saffron with Ice:
To get the most from your saffron, crumble the required number of threads into a small container, or ideally grind them in a pestle & mortar with 1/4 teaspoon Sugar. How fine you grind saffron is up to you. Add ice cubes and water. Leave to soak for about ten minutes or until the ice has completely melted. The gradual melting of the ice will bring out the color and aroma very nicely.
Now add the saffron liquid directly to your recipe when called for. The liquid is deep red but will turn yellow when mixed with food. Any leftover liquid will keep in a tightly covered jar in the fridge for more than a week.