My friends often point out that saffron is too expensive when I recommend using it in a recipe. My answer is “It isn’t If you know how to use it.”. Saffron’s high cost is due to the fact that the threads are the actual stigma of a particular crocus flower and must be harvested by hand. Fortunately, a little bit of it goes a long way. In fact, too much saffron can ruin a dish with an overpowering, medicinal taste. So in practice, saffron actually costs not much more than most seasonings.
How to draw out the maximum flavor, color, and aroma from a pinch of saffron?
This 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. 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. How fine you grind saffron is up to you. Coarsely grinding or simply crumbling it into pieces 1-3mm long. Measure (or count) saffron threads before crushing. A “pinch” is about 20 medium saffron threads.
There are two methods of brewing. Both work really well.
- Method One – Brewing in hot water: The best way to extract flavor is to soak the threads in hot (not boiling) liquid for about 30 minutes before using. Then add the liquid to the dish, usually towards the end of cooking. If you like, you can strain the threads out before you add the liquid, but it’s a difficult job, and the threads look good in any case.
- Method Two – Brewing with ice: Put the threads in a small bowl or cup. Add an ice cube (crushed ice is best). 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.
Read more: Try Our Saffron Chef’s Special Recipes