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Thread: What does saffron taste like to you?

  1. #1
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    What does saffron taste like to you?

    When I have used saffron in a recipe, it turns the food yellow, but I don't notice that it has any flavor. I've even tried chewing some of the stamens plain straight from their tiny vial, and I don't taste anything. Maybe the saffron I've bought in the past wasn't the very finest, but it was all the store carried, and it was imported from Spain and very expensive, so I expect something more than the power to turn food yellow. Now I am inclined to just leave it out. Does it have some marvelous flavor that I am just unable to perceive? Or is it just an expensive way to eat yellow food?

  2. #2
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    i must have unsophisticated tastebuds, because it tastes/smells like melting plastic to me when there is a lot of it in something. otherwise, it tastes like nothing to me. terrible i know
    Understand, when you eat meat, that something did die. You have an obligation to value it - not just the sirloin but also all those wonderful tough little bits.
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  3. #3
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    Saffron smells like bandaids!! I admit, I get drawn to the word "saffron" in a recipe, but if you added a little tumeric for color, I'd be easily fooled. I'm not sure I can readily identify its taste.
    --Mary Kate--

    "In all our woods there is not a tree so hard to kill as the buckeye. The deepest girdling does not deaden it, and even after it is cut down and worked up into the side of a cabin it will send out young branches, denoting to all the world that Buckeyes are not easily conquered, and could with difficulty be destroyed." - Daniel Drake, 1833

  4. #4
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    Are you soaking the saffron before using it?? Soaking helps release the flavour (as long as you add the soaking medium to the dish as well!). The flavour which is subtle. And saffron-y.

  5. #5
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    Paula--The only recipe I have at hand that I've made that contains saffron is an orzo salad with dried cherries, and it says to boil the saffron with the orzo. In making any other recipes I followed the instructions, but I don't remember at this point whether the saffron was soaked or not. Maybe the flavor is too subtle for me. At least I never noticed a Band-aid or melted plastic taste, so perhaps I'm fortunate. I'm still wondering how other people perceive it.

  6. #6
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    I never really perceived a flavor from saffron. However, I DO think turmeric has a chalky kind of flavor, which I don't care for. So I always use saffron over turmeric because of that. Uh, does that make any sense? Martha

  7. #7
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    I have never gotten a taste from saffron. In my mind it only turns the food yellow, so I can do that much cheaper by using a little turmeric

  8. #8
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    In small quantities, saffron has... to me... oh, I can't even describe the taste. "Aromatic" but it really doesn't resemble anything else. I love it. It's more of a smell than a taste, really.

    In large quantities (which, in the case of saffron, is the difference between a "dash" and a "pinch" it's medicinal, or as someone else said, "like bandaids" -- yes.

    And, sad to say, cheap (or old) saffron does do little other than turn food yellow. Probably because the flavour is more of a smell -- poor storage or anything like that kills it. You gotta lash out and buy the super-expensive imported saffron in the teeny test-tubes ir you're going to do it at all... that, or don't bother and dash in some turmeric for the colour cheat.

  9. #9
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    I love saffron and am always looking for recipes that use it. To me it has faint honey like qualities when used in food. I just made an ice cream in which I steeped saffron and a vanilla bean in the milk for a few hours. To truly get the most flavor from saffron I agree with the above post that soaking is the key. That said, even though it takes a while for saffron to "go bad", when it does, no flavor whatsoever can be detected. My mother had the same plastic box of saffron for over 10 years, I decided to play with it. I could not taste a thing. Then, one day at work, I decided to buy some fresh Kashmiri Saffron. What a difference! It's aroma was complex and wonderful. However, if the only thing you use it for is coloring, then go for the tumeric, just a little though (memartha, I know what you mean about it getting chalky). I just read a book all about saffron and it was quite eye opening. So far I have made saffron pound cake, saffron rolls, a saffron bread, and ice cream with it. In one book I read it said that saffron should be soaked for as long as you possibly can to coax out all the flavor. Have fun with it!

    Shannon
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  10. #10
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    I am always attracted to recipes that have saffron as a ingredient too--it has rich and exotic associations for me. So far, though, none of you have convinced me that I'm really missing much. Maybe one day when I'm feeling flush I'll buy some Kashmiri saffron and see if it takes saffron to a new and detectable level. In the meantime, I think I'll leave it out. Thank you all for your input.

  11. #11
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    Believe me, it is worth it.

    It got trendy, and I've seen recipes for saffron all-kinds-of-things that maybe shouldn't be...

    but one thing, one thing that is perfection on a plate, is a really good saffron rice dish.

  12. #12
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    Smells like chlorine to me. Not the strong bleach smell, more like a sitting-by-the-side-of-the-pool smell. But I feel so fancy when I use it!

    Of course, the saffron I have came in a little glass jar for $2 at Trader Joes, and as much as I love the Trader, I can't imagine that $2 saffron is really that terrific. Someday I'd like to splurge and buy really high-quality saffron to see if I'm really missing out.
    -Rebecca


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    --DH, aka "Coach"

  13. #13
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    Interesting. Subtle flavors are usually lost on me ("one clove garlic" ?!) but I've always found saffron to be very distinctive in a recipe, and I would never leave it out. Can't say what it tastes like to me ("saffron") because I'm terrible at that. But it was definitely my understanding that it is always to be soaked a good long time, as Paula said, with the liquid added to whatever you're making. But hey - it costs an arm and a leg, so if you'd just as soon use the turmeric, why not?

  14. #14
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    I agree with Compass Rose, it's more a scent than a taste. But they say most of your sense of taste is really in your sense of smell, so I do think it's more than just a way to turn things yellow. To me it smells wonderful, like flowers!
    "In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport."
    --Julia Child

  15. #15
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    If you're not sure about the quality of your saffron, why not spend a few dollars, buy a couple of saffron corms, and grow your own?! I have some in pots by my front door - and the best thing is the corms multiply, so you end up with more and more plants!

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