Ingredient Focus: Saffron
Saffron is the dried orange-red stigmas of the saffron crocus (crocus sativas) flower. It imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and has a distinctive hay-like fragrance. Only a few strands are needed to flavor and color a dish.
Saffron truly is worth its weight in gold. Considered to be the most expensive spice in the world, it retails between $2,000 to $5,000 per pound. A pound of stigmas must be gleaned from approximately 75,000 crocus flowers because each flower only has 3 stigmas. Each stigma has to be hand picked and this one pound harvest will take about a week of labor.
Fortunately, a little goes a long way and enough can be purchased for a few dishes in under $10. When buying saffron, look for long brightly colored strands. The powdered form is not worth the trouble as it is often adulterated with fillers.
Strands of saffron are usually steeped in a little warm water before being added to the dish. The longer the steeping time, the stronger the color and flavor. I steeped 3 strands in 1 tablespoon of warm water for 10 minutes. Look at the color intensity of the liquid. It was fragrant too!
So, what can I do with 3 strands of saffron? Well, I decided to make a drink with it since I needed a cup of tea anyway. I steeped a sachet of chamomile in 1 cup (240ml) of 195°F (90°C) water for 5 minutes together with the saffron and its liquid. I did the same in another teapot with just the chamomile. Here is what the infusions looked like. The one on the left is with the saffron. It has a nice deep golden-yellow color but I could barely detect the fragrance of the saffron. Not bad at all for just 3 tiny strands!
Since the light source is coming from the window on the right, I decided to swap the teacups and teapots. Using the same camera settings I took another shot of the infusions. The one with the saffron still showed a more golden-yellow color.
A little does go a long way. Usually recipes will call for a pinch which is anywhere between a quarter and a half teaspoon of saffron. In the end, the cost may just be like any other spice in your pantry. Do give it a try. Here are a few recipes that may interest you. Please click on the link or image to open in a new window.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!