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Basic Tips

Do some research where you live regarding who is selling saffron. As the retailers what the coloring strength is of the saffron they are selling. Make sure the saffron you buy meets minimum ISO standards for Category I saffron. If a retailer/vendor cannot tell you the coloring strength of the saffron they sell, do not buy it. Keep searching until you find someone who can. Buy saffron with a coloring strength of at least 220 (see Saffron Myths).

Store your saffron airtight, away from light so it stays potent for a long time and you don't waste any.

Use powdered saffron except when you really want to see the threads in a dish. The powder can be measured easily, disperses color very evenly, can be added directly to recipes without extraction, and costs the same as threads but is more potent and therefore stretches further. If you want to powder your own saffron, use the pilot light of your oven to dry out the threads rather than stove top heat which can easily burn them. Burned saffron threads are irretrievable and unusable.

Start with very simple recipes, which really feature saffron so that you can begin to really know what saffron tastes like. Paella and bouillabaisse, both very traditional saffron dishes, are much more complicated, flavor-wise and more expensive to prepare than saffron bread, saffron broth or a saffron yogurt or cream sauce. If you are uncertain about how much saffron to use, be cautious and then gradually add more the next time around. Once you have put too much saffron in a dish there is no way to correct the error. If you are uncertain about which other flavors to combine with saffron, begin with garlic, thyme, tomatoes, ginger or lemon or some combination of this group since these are particularly compatible. If you want to learn about saffron's true strength, begin by making a saffron ice or hot tea just using hot water, saffron threads, lemon and the sweetener of your choice. To fully extract the threads, steep them in hot water overnight and then use the saffron "tea" which results to both drink and to add to soup or use to saute or braise vegetables or tofu or to cook beans or grains. Add saffron to your favorite lemon / poppyseed /orange / apricot /almond quick bread, cupcake or coffeecake recipe. For the most stunning, delicious saffron dish presentation, experiment with lots of so-called "white-flesh foods" i.e. cabbage, rice noodles, eggplant, potatoes, vanilla ice cream, yogurt-based recipes, non-fat dairy products such as ricotta cheese, egg whites and non-fat milk, the whole onion family, celery, quinoa, millet, navy beans, citrus granite, white flour-based baked goods, parsnips, radish, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, white wine vinegar, white wine, apples, jicama, chestnuts, orzo, barley and almonds.

When using saffron threads, plan to steep them in something hot, something acidic or something alcoholic, whichever ingredient is in your recipe, for a minimum of 20 minutes in addition to other prep time. This assures full extraction of aroma, flavor and color in your dish. This is unnecessary when using saffron powder. You will read elsewhere that "toasting" saffron threads helps you to be able to crush them and to extract more flavor and color from them. My experience has taught me to ignore this instruction because it is too easy to burn delicate saffron threads and the other; safer methods of extraction mentioned above are at least as equally effective. When you work with saffron threads begin the extraction process before you do anything else so that they will be ready by the time you have your other prep work completed. Do not try to extract saffron powder or threads in fats. Saffron is water-soluble.

When working with saffron threads, avoid using a whisk. When working with threads or powder, avoid using wooden utensils, which tend to absorb the saffron. Don't worry about using saffron to flavor more than one dish being served at the same meal. Saffroned croutons in the salad, for example, or a saffroned grain dish can accompany a saffron-flavored soup. The more "rules" you try to apply to the use of saffron, the more limited your experience will be.

Powder vs Threads
I have talked with a number of Chefs and they have all agreed that 1/2 tsp of saffron threads is the equivalent of 1/4 tsp of saffron powder. So, as a general rule use half the amount of powder as you would threads.

The Icons below will guide you to the other Saffron Pages : Pages 5 - 10 are Recipe Pages

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