Saturday, June 10, 2017

Safran – Saffron. Saffron, the Most Expensive Spice in the World. Saffron on French Menus.

Behind the French Menus
Bryan G. Newman
Saffron threads.

Saffron’s color, aroma, and the taste that it imparts to certain dishes are unique; even the few who do not appreciate saffron’s taste will appreciate the exquisite golden hue with which saffron infuses the dishes with which it is prepared.
The saffron crocus.
What makes saffron so expensive?
Saffron comes from the flower called the saffron crocus, with some 150,000 flowers needed for one kilogram of dried saffron.  Inside every flower, there are just some 12 threads, correctly called styles and stigmas, which are the saffron spice. These threads can only be harvested by hand and that single kilo comes from about half an acre of flowers. The threads range from orange to dark red and are taken from the heart of the flower, any yellow threads included are tasteless and worthless.  France has always grown saffron, but every year more and more is imported; when French saffron is being used, you may be sure that it will be indicated on the menu.  Spain was once France’s largest foreign supplier but it is also now producing less; countries like Iran and Thailand produce more. Europe cannot compete with the cost of hand labor and saffron remains the most expensive spice in the world.

Saffron on French Menus:

Filet de Maigre Label Rouge, Émulsion au Safran des Ardennes - A filet of meagre, the fish, also called croaker or salmon bass,  prepared with a thick sauce using saffron from the French Ardennes. The French department of the Ardennes is now part of the region of the Grand Est, previously the Champagne-Ardenne region. Just over the northern border is the region of the Belgian Ardennes; that is the site of the bloody Battle of the Bulge which was the last German offensive in Europe in WWII. These farmed meagre fish are raised in huge open nets, with plenty of space, in the clear waters off the coast of Corsica.  To achieve  France's red label for quality these fish are highly rated for their taste and raised in the absence of antibiotics and all other unwanted additives.
La Véritable Bouillabaisse – The authentic bouillabaisse.   Do not order an hors d’oeuvre or an entrée if you are in a restaurant that serves traditional bouillabaisse; it is an enormous stew which includes at least four different fish prepared in a soup flavored with saffron.  In a restaurant that wants to impress it will be served in two different stages. Bouillabaisse is the most famous of all France’s saffron flavored dishes. 
A bouillabaisse
Photograph courtesy of nyaa_birdies_perch.
 Noix de Saint-Jacques Poêlées, Beurre d'Agrumes et Safran – The meat of the king scallop lightly fried with a citrus butter and saffron sauce.

Moules au Safran et Frites  Mussels prepared in a broth flavored with saffron and served with French fries, in the UK chips.
Saffron flavored crème caramel.

Pavé de Turbot au Safran – A thick cut of turbot, the fish, cooked with a saffron based sauce.

Risotto d'Orge Perlé au Poireau et au Safran – A risotto made with pearled barley flavored with leeks and saffron. (Pearled barley is barley that has had its hull and bran removed).

Crème Brûlée au Safran - Crème Brûlée flavored with saffron.
When you buy saffron for your home, there should only be dark orange to deep reddish threads, no yellow mixed with the red. Neither should saffron be powdered or inexpensive; if you see discounted saffron it probably is not saffron!  The best saffron will cost over 8 Euros per gram, and anything under 5 Euros per grams should be viewed with suspicion.
The history of Saffron
Despite most assumptions saffron did not originate in the Middle or Far East; botanists have determined that saffron developed on the Greek island of Crete.
For the history of saffron see the websites of Gernot Katzer, Gernot Katzer’s Spice-Pages,  and  Eric Schoenzetter’s, Toil'd'Épices.  I use these two very knowledgeable individuals to check on all the information and misinformation on the history of herbs and spices that I collect along the way.

(The Toil d’Épice website is in French only but with the Bing and Google translate apps it is easily understood.

Crocus Sativus

Saffron in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - safrà), (Dutch -  saffraan), (German – safran), (Italian – zafferano), (Spanish – azafrán).
Connected Posts:
Behind the French Menu’s links include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are nearly 400 articles that include over 1,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations. To search for more articles like this one simply add the word or words you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" and search with Google or Bing.
Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

No comments:

Post a Comment