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home > food & wine dictionary > saffron

Food and Wine Dictionary


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 saffron    [SAF-ruhn]

It's no wonder that saffron — the yellow-orange stigmas from a small purple crocus (Crocus sativus )— is the world's most expensive spice. Each flower provides only threestigmas, which must be carefully hand-picked and then dried — an extremelylabor-intensive process. It takes over 14,000 of these tiny stigmas for eachounce of saffron. Thousands of years ago saffron was used not only to flavor foodand beverages but to make medicines and to dye cloth and body oils a deep yellow.Today this pungent, aromatic spice is primarily used to flavor and tint food.Fortunately (because it's so pricey), a little saffron goes a long way. It'sintegral to hundreds of dishes like BOUILLABAISSE, RISOTTO Milanese and PAELLA, and flavors many European baked goods.Saffron is marketed in both powdered form and in threads (the whole stigmas).Powdered saffron loses its flavor more readily and can be easily adulterated withimitations. The threads should be crushed just before using. Store saffronairtight in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. See also  SPICES; HERB AND SPICE CHART.

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.


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