Along with olives, saffron is another product that is produced in Greece. In the area of Krokos Kozanis Macedonian saffron is grown and considered to be some of the most intense saffron in the world. With an average temperature much lower than Kalamata –only around 17C average annually and a low temperature that can go down to -2C it is very different land. Evidence has proven that saffron was being cultivated as far back as the Bronze Age but was lost for around 300 years but reestablished when traders bought crocus plants from Austria and saffron once again was back on the list of cultivated species. Also as a protected regional product no other area in Greece can grow, harvest and sell Greek Red Saffron.Like all saffron the labour is in the hand harvesting process that is painstaking. Flowers open at first light and the stigmas must be picked before the heat of the sun withers them and they lose their taste and colour. As they have a high level of moisture, the stigmas must be dried so they are very carefully roasted which reduces their size down to just 1/5 of their original size. So 1kg of freshly picked stigmas will translate into just 200g of roasted saffron. 85,000 flowers are needed to produce a final end product of ready to retail 1kg saffron so that is an astonishing number!
The most classic use of saffron is rice dishes: risottos, pilafs, and paellas. A small pinch adds brilliant colour, aroma, and flavour against familiar plain grains. Desserts are another go-to, and saffron can generally be used anywhere vanilla is, such as custards and cookies, with both having sweet, heady, and musky flavour profile. Saffron takes best to light meat and vegetables, such as chicken, cauliflower, and onions. Combine those in a quick braise with saffron, cinnamon, cumin, and almonds and you have a North African-esque dish that tastes like it took a lot of effort.For general cooking, it’s best to add saffron early on in cooking so its flavour can infuse into the other ingredients. If there’s water already in the pan, just crumble in the threads. Otherwise soak them in a tablespoon of water for ten minutes before adding to the pan
If you want saffron’s delicate flavour to really come to the fore, keep the other flavors and seasonings to a minimum. But we most enjoy saffron as a supporting player, less for its flavour than for the depth of flavour it gives a whole dish. A small pinch in a large pot of food makes a substantial change its character: the taste becomes richer, fuller, and much more aromatic. Whether you dress it up or down, saffron’s worth getting to know.