Sunday, August 2, 2009

August Newsletter

August 1. 2009
Saffron a very exotic and expensive spice
The saffron plant is native to Asia Minor, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. This very small plant was used in medicines, perfumes, dyes, as well as a food seasoning . It has been dated back as far as the old testament bibical days.
Widely used by the Assyrians, Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans,
Persians and other peoples of that day.
Now you might be asking what is saffron exactly?
and that is a good question.
Saffron is actually the stigmas of the crocus flower. Each purple crocus flower produces
three stigmas. These are picked and dried thus producing the reddish strands or
threads which is the spice. They usually bloom in the autumn.
It takes approximately 14,000 stigmas to produce only one ounce of saffron threads or about 70,000 crocus flowers to produce one pound of saffron. The saffron plants themselves are planted by hand. The saffron flowers and stigma threads are also picked and
harvested by hand. The process of harvesting this spice is usually a two to three week period, which is labor intensive and also explains why this is the
worlds most expensive spice on the market today.
To see a photo of a Saffron Crocus in bloom go to Trek Earth
The finest quality saffron comes from Spain, Kashmir and Iran. Although it is grown in other countries around the world such as Greece, Turkey, Italy, Morocco and India.
Spain is probably the largest exporter of this "Cadillac" of spices.
Some of the largest saffron importers are Germany, U.S.A., Switzerland, U.K.
There are varying degrees of saffron on the market today and they are usually graded according to laboratory measurements for characteristics such as crocin (colour), picrocrocin (taste), and safranal (fragrance) content. These will determine the grade and quality. Despite such attempts at quality control and standardization in today's market many growers do not recognize these types of test.
You will see that company's will sell a saffron thread mixture. This will usually mean that a high-grade say, Kashmiri saffron, is often sold mixed with a lesser grade say an, Iranian import, thus reducing the saffrons uniqueness. A pure Spanish or Mancha grade of Saffron is a good choice when shopping for the fine quality of saffron.
Saffron has a very unique aroma and flavor.
I have heard and read many different descriptions and I guess it is in the nose of the beholder, to coin a phrase. Anyway I will give you some idea here.
I would say that
saffron has a semi sweet woody aroma. Making it a very distinctive.
As for taste, well that too will be determined by the user.
I do find it to be a semi bitter sweet flavor that does enhance many different dishes.
It also blends well with a varied of spices such as:
garlic, thyme, onion powder, fennel, cardamom, lemon,
curry and pepper to mention a few.
There are several ways to prepare saffron for use from full strands, ground, to soaking them. This will depend greatly on the recipe you are preparing.
Lets look at some of these uses.
If you are planning to use saffron threads just as they are remember that a little goes a long way. The saffron flavor will be stronger the second day.
A pinch in soups, stews or rice is generally all that is needed for
excellent flavor and color.
Oh yes and the color produced once cooked is a nice shade of yellow.
You can also soak your saffron threads in a broth water or wine.
A good rule of thumb is approximately
5 teaspoons of liquid for every half teaspoon of saffron.
Mash the threads and form a thick paste . Then add the paste to your dish when ready. You should allow a minimum of 30 minute soaking to a maximum of 2 hours for best results.
If you use a powdered or mixed saffron seasoning
such as the one we offer remember that the saffron will not be as strong in this setting.
Also there will be other spices in the mix to lessen the effect of the saffron.
You should still be able to recognize the saffron flavor though.
Basil and Things is now carrying our very own special blend of Saffron Rice Seasoning.
We have combined a very unique flavor with a variety of spices.
We are offering this Seasoning in a 1 oz. bottle at this time.
We hope you will try our newest blend and find it to be very tasty.
Saffron is excellent in seafood dishes as bouillabaisse, or marinade for fish.
Try it in risotto and other rice and pasta dishes.
Great in beef stew, soups, and broths.
Also excellent to add to your tomato based sauces.
Saffron is also used in bread and cake recipes too.
As I mentioned above Saffron does blends well with a wide range of spices
So let your imagination take hold an see what you may create
with the "most expensive spice in the world".
So until next month "Have Fun, Take Care, and Happy Cooking".
Rick and Kathy with Basil and Things

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