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How long does saffron last?

Soop Jun 11, 2009 07:23 AM

Just realised, I hardly ever use it, and it's quite expensive. It might be going off, and although I don't like it, I don't want to waste it. Any ideas for using it up?

*edit* it's really overpowering, isn't it?

  1. c oliver Jun 11, 2009 07:55 AM

    I'll be interested in the response to this. I just found a little unopened container in my pantry that is probably three years old. I won't toss it but if it's seriously decreased in flavor would either use more or add it to a soup or casserole.

    1. carswell Jun 11, 2009 08:50 AM

      While I've read that it has a long shelf life (five years sticks in my mental sieve), I find it eventually takes on an unpleasant metallic edge, so I buy small quantities and toss it after a year or two. Harold McGee says "Saffron's color and flavor are readily altered by light and heat, so this valuable spice is best stored in an airtight container in the freezer."

      Google *shelf life of saffron* for a number of interesting results, including a scientific paper. Consensus seems to be that consuming sooner is better but that, properly stored, it can last up to two years. Echoing that, in their book *La cuisine et le goût des épices*, spice gurus Ethné and Philippe de Vienne of www.epicesdecru.com say that saffron goes stale two years after harvest, so best to buy a "vintage"-dated product.

      As to whether it's overpowering: only if you use too much, eh? And I find that's true for just about all the "flower" spices (rose, lavender, orange flower, jasmine, clove, etc.).

      1 Reply
      1. re: carswell
        Soop Jun 11, 2009 08:57 AM

        Thanks Carswell. I read somewhere it goes well in sweeter things. Maybe I'm just not a saffron people.

      2. alanbarnes Jun 11, 2009 09:41 AM

        I've kept it (whole, rolled in aluminum foil, sealed in a zip-top bag) for a couple of years with no problems. In terms of using it up, Madhur Jaffrey's mughlai biryani is delicious, but extravagant - it calls for a full teaspoon of saffron threads:


        With all the other spices, I don't find the saffron overpowering.

        3 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes
          c oliver Jun 11, 2009 09:48 AM

          Wow, alan, that sounds great! And with the cool temps at the lake in the summer, I don't have to wait til winter to cook. Thanks, C

          1. re: c oliver
            alanbarnes Jun 11, 2009 10:08 AM

            It's one of my favorite recipes, and makes a pretty spectacular centerpiece for an Indian dinner if it's presented attractively (unlike the picture on the linked website). A large platter, mounded with rice, with the chunks of lamb and egg artistically arranged on top, and careful drizzles of saffron milk. It won't taste any better than a casserole dish with the stuff dumped in, but it's a lot prettier.

            It definitely heats up the kitchen, though. We've gotten a short reprieve from summer here in the valley, but it won't last. Stop gloating.

            1. re: alanbarnes
              c oliver Jun 11, 2009 10:16 AM

              Do you think it would be good with goat? Yeah, I suffer when our temps get to 75 in July and August :)

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