Lately I have been interested in flora which can produce a spice and one that got me very excited is saffron.
Did you know that saffron is the yellow-orange stigma from the crocus flower, commonly known as the Rose of Saffron? Today saffron is cultivated all around the world, however the main producing countries for saffron are Iran, Spain, Kashmir (India) and Sardinia.
Saffron flowers bloom for one week of the year and each one of them produces three stamens which must be picked by hand, then they are carefully dried in the sun or over a low fire to lose its potency. It is said that the best saffron comes from freshly picked stems that are left to dry over time with no heat application.
Historically, saffron has influenced cultures such as the Greeks, Persians, Romans and Arabs in early days with uses such as perfumes, colouring, medicine, religious uses and for cooking. Used for over 3500 years it has kept its status of being one of the world’s most costly substances.
When you shop for saffron look out for tiny, bright red threads with tips of the threads in a slightly lighter orange-red colour. The darker the colour of saffron the better quality it will be. If you are buying saffron from Spain search for Coupe, Superior, La Mancha or Rio. Coupe is the highest with least flavourless yellow stem, however it contains the highest amount of the key essential oils in saffron.
It is common knowledge that saffron is used in cooking for its warm fragrant, earthy flavours and musky, floral, honeyed aromas. It is because of these qualities that saffron is an important part of recipes for liqueurs such as Chartreuse, Izarra and Strega.
How would you use saffron in cocktails?
Bartender’s note: “Always use fresh saffron in small doses.”