How to use saffron

we would like to mention a few basic tips on using saffron.

·         Saffron can be used in two ways: powdered or threads. If your main goal in using saffron is to create the visual effect such as decorating your food, use threads. A good example is the photo below.On the other hand, If you want to use saffron in such a way that is not obvious to the eye, then you should grind it. A good example of this is using a bit of saffron in pizza sauce and keeping it a secret.

·         Do not buy powdered saffron for two good reasons, unless you trust your supplier. First, it is very easy to adulterate powder saffron and you have no idea how pure it is. Second, powdered saffron has a short shelf life and loses flavor rapidly.

·         If you need to use powdered saffron, make your own as you need it by grinding the saffron threads to a fine powder before adding to your cooking. If you are going to only use a pinch or two at a time to prepare powdered saffron, buying a mortar and pestle is highly recommended .If you have a hard time grinding your saffron with mortar and pestle, due to its moisture content, add a pinch of sugar grains to it and then grind it. This makes the grinding easier and does not affect your recipe. Buying a blade coffee grinder is recommended for chefs or those who use more than few grams at a time (burr coffee grinders will not work as the saffron threads are light and they will not fall into the burr).

Once your saffron is in powder form, add 3-5 teaspoons of warm or boiling water to it and leave it to infuse for about 5-10 minutes. This is referred to as liquid saffron. You can prepare liquid saffron with milk, vinegar, or wine instead of water. If you prepare the liquid saffron with boiling water, you can keep it in a jar for few weeks and use it as you need.

·         Once you decide how much saffron to use, before you mix it with anything else or powdering it, place your saffron threads in a clean flat dish and separate the threads and look carefully. Anything that does not look like a saffron thread, pick it out and throw it away. Often there are foreign particles mixed with the saffron threads, not intentionally but by accident as the entire process is done by humans and humans make errors. Cleaning saffron is a very labor intensive process when you deal with pounds of saffron. Saffron packers do their best to ensure the saffron is free from any foreign particles, but some times they miss. Since you only use a little bit of threads, it only takes few seconds to scan the threads with your eyes. For your safety and the safety of others please take this tip seriously. This is another disadvantage of powdered saffron as everything gets grinded.

·         Since saffron from different regions of the world have different potencies, at most, use only as directed in the recipes. For example, Kashmiri saffron is very potent and you may need to use less than what is called for in your recipe.

·         Always store your saffron in a cool dry place and away from bright light. Do not expose your saffron to moisture.

Benefits of Saffron

(medicinal properties of saffron)

Saffron has been known since Antiquity as a remedy for all pains, without claiming to be a universal medicine, it is however a natural solution for many health problems in our time.

 In the East, saffron was generally used to treat light to moderate depression; it had the reputation to bring cheerfulness and wisdom. Because of this, it is said that it has aphrodisiac properties for women.

 In Morocco, saffron is part of a remedy passed down from mother to daughter still used to relieve tooth ache when babies get their first teeth (for external use: analgesic for gums), by massaging gums with a gold ring coated with honey and saffron, a lotion with natural antiseptic properties. In France, the well known Delabarre syrup took up the same recipe. Grand-mothers also relieved young women's painful periods by giving them tea or milk with saffron.

 This spice has been well known for a very long time as a remedy against many ailments. It is among the richest plant sources of riboflavin (vitamin B2). It also contains an essential oil, safranal, and some crocetins which are carotenoids, that is to say pro-vitamin A.

 Whereas pigments play a stimulating function in digestion (using from 0.5 to 1 g per litre of water, saffron stimulates digestion), safranal has a sedative action. In general, saffron is known to act on the nervous system: it would be both analgesic and tonic.

 In traditional medicine, the plant is used as a stomachic. In Chinese medicine, it is employed as a painkiller for cramps and asthma and can also treat bruises. It helps in relieving inflammation of arthritis. Saffron also provides relief from joint pains. It is very helpful for athletes as it eases fatigue and muscle inflammation by helping the tissues to get rid of lactic acid which gets built up after strenuous exercise.

 It is said that saffron is also a mild sedative which can be used for insomnia and even treat depression. Taking a pinch of saffron with milk before bed helps in sleep disorders like insomnia.

Saffron also contains the compound “crocin”, which scientists believe that helps in reducing fever. Crocin found in saffron also promotes learning, memory retention, and recall capacity.It allows heart rate to slow down as well as lowering blood pressure and even stimulate respiration. It is said to ease digestion, relieve the liver and also thin the blood.

Saffron

In foods, saffron is used as a spice, yellow food coloring, and as a flavoring agent. In manufacturing, saffron extracts are used as fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth.

Saffron's aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods.

Saffron is widely used in European, Arab, South and Central Asian, Persian, and Turkish cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Saffron has a long medicinal history as part of traditional healing; modern medicine has also discovered saffron as having anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties.

Saffron stigmas, and even petals, have been said to be helpful for depression. Early studies show that saffron may protect the eyes from the direct effects of bright light and retinal stress apart from slowing down macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Saffron is also used as an aphrodisiac.

Types of Saffron

Negin
Negin This kind of saffron has the highest coloring power (higher than 250 usp) among the other kinds and its volume is higher, too.
All-Red (Sargol in Persian)
All-Red (Sargol in Persian) This kind of saffron is similar to coupe and it is derived from Bunch saffron, i.e. the white or yellow parts of saffron threads are cut by scissors and then using static electricity they are separated from the red parts. The remaining parts are completely red and they are really pure and without style. This kind of saffron has very high coloring power (240 usp or higher).
Poushal
Poushal This kind of saffron contains filaments which have 2 or 3 mm style. Its coloring power is about 220 usp
Bunch (Dastehi in Persian):
Bunch (Dastehi in Persian) This kind of saffron consists of both, style and red-colored stigma. It is also called Red& White in which the red part is about 70% to 75% and the style is about 25% and 30%. According to Iran's Standard, it is called filament 4%.
Style (Konj in Persian)
It is the yellow or white parts of saffron threads which are separated from Red-colored stigma. In fact, this part of saffron thread cannot de defined as pure saffron. It does not contain the dye, crocin that gives food a rich golden color. It is mostly applied for medicinal usages.

Saffron Compounds

Saffron contains in excess of 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components, many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes. However, saffron's golden yellow-orange color is primarily the result of α-crocin. This crocin is trans-crocetin di-(ß-D-gentiobiosyl) ester (systematic (IUPAC) name: 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid). This means that the crocin underlying saffron's aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves are a series of hydrophilic carotenoids that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl polyene esters of crocetin. Meanwhile, crocetin is a conjugated polyene dicarboxylic acid that is hydrophobic, and thus oil-soluble. When crocetin is esterified with two water-soluble gentiobioses (which are sugars), a product results that is itself water-soluble. The resultant α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may comprise more than 10% of dry saffron's mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for colouring water-based (non-fatty) foods such as rice dishes. The bitter glucoside picrocrocin is responsible for saffron's flavor. Picrocrocin (chemical formula: C16H26O7; systematic name: 4-(β-D-glucopyranosyloxy)-2,6,6- trimethylcyclohex-1-ene-1-carboxaldehyde) is a union of an aldehyde sub-element known as safranal (systematic name: 2,6,6-trimethylcyclohexa-1,3-dien-1- carboxaldehyde) and a carbohydrate. It has insecticidal and pesticidal properties, and may comprise up to 4% of dry saffron. Significantly, picrocrocin is a truncated version (produced via oxidative cleavage) of the carotenoid zeaxanthin and is the glycoside of the terpene aldehyde safranal. The reddish-colored zeaxanthin is, incidentally, one of the carotenoids naturally present within the retina of the human eye. When saffron is dried after its harvest, the heat, combined with enzymatic action, splits picrocrocin to yield D-glucose and a free safranal molecule. Safranal, a volatile oil, gives saffron much of its distinctive aroma.Safranal is less bitter than picrocrocin and may comprise up to 70% of dry saffron's volatile fraction in some samples. A second element underlying saffron's aroma is 2-hydroxy-4,4,6-trimethyl-2,5-cyclohexadien-1-one, the scent of which has been described as "saffron, dried hay like". Chemists found this to be the most powerful contributor to saffron's fragrance despite its being present in a lesser quantity than safranal. The glycoside crocin is water-soluble, and so it does not as readily contribute its yellow colouring to oily substances. As such, it is ideal for coloring water-based foods, such as rice. Dry saffron is highly sensitive to fluctuating pH levels, and rapidly breaks down chemically in the presence of light and oxidizing agents. It must therefore be stored away in air-tight containers in order to minimize contact with atmospheric oxygen. Saffron is somewhat more resistant to heat.

Identifying Quality Saffron

Quality saffron consists of long, bright red stigmas. In the beginning of the season, saffron has the desired coloring strength, taste and bitterness. As the days pass, gradually the color and taste of saffron decrease and its fragrance and aroma increase. By lapse of time, the color of saffron becomes dark and the filaments become dry and fragile in appearance.

The easiest method to recognize pure saffron is to add it to some water. The pure and real saffron will make the water yellow but unreal saffron makes it orange or red. We suggest hot water for this test.

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