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What does Saffron taste like?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I know Saffron is the most expensive spice but I wanted to try it. This week I bought a small vial of it; my health food store brought a small container of it out of their vault. I'm kidding, sort of... a small vial of saffron threads cost about $9. It came to maybe a heaping tablespoon.



This morning I added a pinch of it- maybe 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon- to my oatmeal with sugar and margarine. All recipes I've seen which include saffron call for only a small amount. The bits of saffron thread made the oats yellow, which I expected, but I couldn't taste or smell anything. I sniffed the vial when I opened it. It's not stale- there was a date-of-sale on it, and it should be fresh.



Did I just shell out something like $100 a pound for fancy food coloring??!! I can get a bigger bang for my buck with turmeric. Waaahhh!

"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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post #2 of 14
Tom - it is mainly a coloring agent, although it does have a mild, slightly sweet-but-earthy taste. Turmeric will indeed give you color more economically, although it does have a bitterness that saffron doesn't. Saffron is also more of a true yellow, whereas turmeric is more orange.



I keep some on hand, mostly for making saffron basmati rice for Indian dishes. I don't mind the price, as it takes me years to go through the little container!



BTW, the way it is usually used is to steep a few stamens in a small amount of warm water or soil milk, to bring out all the color you can. Then the liquid is added to your rice or other dish. More efficient that way, and the color is then spread evenly throughout the dish.
post #3 of 14
The flavor is very subtle and has an earthy taste, as Seusomon mentioned, and is used in Spanish or Indian dishes. My husband likes to use it with basmati rice too. IMO, it's not worth the money.
post #4 of 14
Whenever a recipe calls for saffron, I substitute it with urucum (annatto). Much cheaper and without the natural bitterness of turmeric.
post #5 of 14
I couldn't get your link to come up Isabelle. But I agree, turmeric can be very bitter, especially if you use too much.
post #6 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunny View Post

I couldn't get your link to come up Isabelle. But I agree, turmeric can be very bitter, especially if you use too much.



Shoot. It works for me, I don't know what's wrong. Perhaps you could try copying and pasting it? http://www.apinchof.com/annatto1049.html
post #7 of 14
It's working now. Guess it was just a temporary glitch. Where do you buy the stuff?
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Seusomon and everybody! That must be why saffron is used so often in rice. Even brown rice doesn't have that dark a color, and the saffron yellow is really beautiful in it. I agree that turmeric is rather bitter, and I've also heard of annatto.



Some time ago, Vegetarian Times magazine had an article about colorful recipes, noting that food's appearance can add a lot to its appeal, just as taste, smell, and texture do.



Sunny, I think I've seen annatto as an ingredient in some adobo seasoning mixes, but I can't remember seeing it on sale by itself.

"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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post #9 of 14
Yeah, I've seen it listed as an ingredient in things, but I haven't seen it for sale either.
post #10 of 14
Here in Brazil you can find it in any supermarket, so I thought maybe it was available at the spice section of grocery or specialty stores there, but apparently that's not the case then.
post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 
Okay. I looked saffron up in a book of herbs and spices- it's got everything about herbs from growing them to using them- and it said that fresh saffron will have a strong, sweet taste and bright yellow color, but stale saffron just tastes musty. Like I mentioned above, my saffron isn't near the last date of sale. But the threads look more dark-orange than yellow until I put them in something, and "musty" does sort of describe my batch.



I made rice with a pinch of it added to the water the other day, though, and it made the rice turn rich yellow.

"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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post #12 of 14
Tom, do you have a Trader Joe's near you? They sell small jars of saffron for like $3.50 or something like that. Definitely the best buy I've found on it!



Anyway, it so happens that one of my favorite dishes has saffron in it! It's from the cookbook The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. Here it is:



Saffron-Scented Risotto alla Milanese



2 3/4 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/8 tsp saffron threads

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 cup arborio rice

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste



Combine the vegetable broth and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in the saffron. Cover and barely simmer over low heat.



In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.



Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1/4 cup of the simmering brother mixture to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding 1/4 cup of the broth mixture at a time and cooking and stirring until it is almost absorbed and all the broth mixture has been used, seasoning with salt and pepper after the last broth addition. The mixture should be creamy, not runny, and the rice should be tender yet still firm to the bite. (At this point, taste the rice. If the rice tastes too hard, add an additional 1/4 of water and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed.) Serve at once.
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post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
This sounds like a good recipe. But I don't have a Trader Joe's near me- I don't think that chain has anything in Upstate New York.



I made saffron rice last night and tasted a pinch of saffron straight. It tasted pleasant and vaguely familiar, but I don't know where I've come across that flavor before. Even if my saffron is old, I think I have an idea what it tastes like now. The threads are a reddish-brown, and I add a pinch to the water with the rice and bring everything to a boil. But even before the water heats up, the bright yellow color is already noticeable, and gets deeper as the rice cooks. I know the color disperses more evenly if you crush the threads (or soak them as Seusomon advises).

"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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"Ground Control to Major Tom.... Ground Control to Major Tom...

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on...."

David Bowie- "Space Oddity"

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post #14 of 14
I love saffron and buy mine from Penzey's Spices.



Their saffron definitely has a 'taste' - which I find to be (like Seusoman described) sorta 'earthy' and exotic and .... for lack of a better word, 'Indian'.



I like it in basmati rice the best - then I sorta make "fried rice" with a few veggies and the saffron rice in a few drops hot oil... it REALLY makes the saffron flavor pop out!
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