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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Gardening, Herbs, Spices and More / ZWT8 ~ Saffron Farm Spain Challenge
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    ZWT8 ~ Saffron Farm Spain Challenge

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    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:37 am
    Forum Host
    100 players are traveling the world for seven weeks on a whirlwind Zaar World Tour 8. Come check out our recipes, see the places we've been and what we have learned. icon_biggrin.gif
    ZWT8 Main Thread


    This Challenge showcases the Gardening, Herbs, Spices and More Forum





    Start Date: July 20

    End Date: July 31 deadline midnight Zaar Time

    Challenge: Team Challenge (one report per team)
    Points: 15 points

    For the Saffron Farm challenge, your ZWT8 team is going to spend the day on a farm in Spain to learn all about the highly prized Mediterranean spice called Azafrán (in Spanish) or Saffron (in English).

    1) Read the brief tutorial below about the basics of saffron farming. We want you to learn even more interesting facts about Saffron farming, so additional video and text links are provided for those who would like to know more in-depth details and facts about saffron farming. But feel free to do your own research, too.

    2) After your team excursion to the saffron farm, write ONE TEAM report about your exciting adventure. Go ahead…spill the beans…..who got down and dirty and played in the soil? Who tired out first? Who was the eager beaver who picked the most, and who was the lone straggler who picked the least saffron blooms? Don’t be shy…dish the dirt! (sorry for the pun icon_wink.gif ) Just be creative and original, but most of all have fun.

    Be sure your team report involves every member of your ZWT8 team.

    3) Please remember to:
    ~ Post your completion in this thread. (Include your team name and team banner.)






    Saffron Farming in Spain


    Azafrán (or saffron, in English) comes from flowering Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) plants that are grown on large farms throughout the Mediterranean and a few other areas of the world. Although saffron farming fell out of favor due to the overall economic hardships of growing such an expensive crop, there has been a resurgence of interest in saffron farming again in the last decade or so of the current economic downturn. Because, despite its price, saffron is still highly used throughout the world and therefore a worthy venture for some Spanish farming families.


    Each crocus bloom produces three feather-light stigmas that must be tediously hand-picked. It’s quite painstaking, back-breaking work, because it takes about 400,000 stems (from about 250,000 flowers) to obtain a single kilogram (or about 2.2 pounds) of this oldest known and highly-prized spice. That amounts to about an acre of crocus flowers needed to produce just a single pound of marketable saffron threads!


    But workers must labor quickly though, because these tender threads must be harvested only in the early hours of dawn, before the sun’s warmth wilts the tender threads. And for optimal value, they must get through the farm’s entire crop all within a short window of about 2 to 3 weeks during the month of October.



    Once picked, the threads are then dried in special baskets. Once this is complete, the highly-prized Saffron threads are then packaged and prepared for local markets and for distribution to various countries world-wide.

    Samples of all saffron prepared for market must undergo a laboratory process of grading which evaluates three things: 1) the crocin--which measures the color of the saffron threads, 2) picocrocin--which is a measurement of its taste, and 3) safranal--which measures the fragrance of the saffron threads. All of those factors contribute to the market value of the packaged saffron.


    Saffron is used not only as a spice in daily cooking, but it can also be utilized for a variety of other useful purposes. For instance, in China and India, saffron is often used as a dye. Saffron is also used for religious purposes in parts of India, and it’s used for a variety of medicinal ailments in a number of areas throughout the world.

    For more information about Saffron farming, visit these additional video and text links below. Or, feel free to do your own research.


    * Text link ~ Wolds of Flavor of Spain ~ Saffron
    * Video link ~ Spain’s Saffron Farm ~ 1:46 in length


    NorthwestGal
    Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:03 am
    Forum Host
    Scoreboard

    Bistro Babes - Team Tango Mango Status 15 points
    1. Deantini icon_biggrin.gif

    The Wild Bunch - Team Amethyst Status 15 points
    1. momaphet icon_biggrin.gif

    Diners, Winers, and Chives - Team Electric Lime Status 15 points
    1. Bonnie G #2 icon_biggrin.gif

    Om Nom Nommers - Team Turquoise Status 14 points
    1. Charmie777 icon_biggrin.gif

    Jammin' Jazzberries - Team Jazzberry Jam Status 15 points
    1. HokiesMom icon_biggrin.gif

    The Fearless Red Dragons - Team Ruby Red Status 15 points
    1. lauralie41 icon_biggrin.gif

    Chefs in the Wild - Team Pacific Blue Status 15 points
    1. Annacia icon_biggrin.gif

    Lively Lemon Lovelies - Team Laser Lemon Status 15 points
    1. Mia in Germany icon_biggrin.gif

    The Herbaceous Curvaceous Honeys - Team Sage Status 15 points
    1. Muffin Goddess icon_biggrin.gif


    Last edited by NorthwestGal on Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:06 pm, edited 12 times in total
    NorthwestGal
    Tue Jul 17, 2012 2:04 am
    Forum Host
    icon_biggrin.gif
    Mia in Germany
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:28 am
    Forum Host


    I'm going to make this for the Lemon Lovelies icon_biggrin.gif
    Annacia
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 5:35 am
    Forum Host


    Count me in for the above team icon_wink.gif
    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:54 am
    Forum Host
    Mia in Germany wrote:


    I'm going to make this for the Lemon Lovelies icon_biggrin.gif


    I've got you down for the Lively Lemon Lovelies, Mia in Germany. Thanks for participating.
    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 6:55 am
    Forum Host
    Annacia wrote:


    Count me in for the above team icon_wink.gif


    I'll definitely count you in for the Chefs Gone WIld, Annacia.
    Bonnie G #2
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:15 am
    Food.com Groupie

    want to take this adventure with our team
    Bonnie G #2
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 10:28 am
    Food.com Groupie


    This is so much fun:

    Saffron Farming, well the team Diners, Winers and Chives could not be left out of this so we are off on our first class jet lead by our talented guide lazyme to Spain and the Saffron farm to get supplies for everyone.

    Our Brave Captain Boomette is busy directing the efforts and ensuring all travelers know the importance of this excursion and the need to put forth a strong effort – after all, it’s still an expensive herb but well worth it when you can claim you’ve harvested your own.

    Our famous Cookbook Guru Lainey6605 is busy looking up recipes so we’ll have plenty of choses once we’ve completed the tour. Her favorite is already Alfresco Dining - Seafood Paella and Saffron Aioli by threeovens, but everyone will have something yummy to choose from.

    Our Captian’s trusty sidekick First mate mersaydees has already started assigning tasks to the rest of the time and from the sounds of it it’s not going to be easy. We’ve all got a long day ahead of us. As we land and drive to the Farm the fields are covered with crocus blooms.

    The team rushes out eager to start while our own Mr Chives, aka – Celticevergreen carries his pack and digs right in eager to collect the most.

    Bonnie G #2 figures he’s doing such a great job maybe she can get by with just observing, this looks like a lot of work to her so maybe she’ll just help with carrying the bag and enjoying the blooms. After all someone has to take photos of all the excitement.

    Threeovens and Marcasite Queen are having race to see who can beat Chives to the end of the row and looks like it’s a close race.

    Meanwhile Alaska Pam and Pesto lover have started heating up the kitchen to try out Paella lets hope there’s enough left over to bring back home.

    At the end of the day, everyone’s well fed, tired but pleased, what a great tour and can’t wait for the next grand adventure.
    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 3:44 pm
    Forum Host
    Bonnie G #2 wrote:


    This is so much fun:

    Saffron Farming, well the team Diners, Winers and Chives could not be left out of this so we are off on our first class jet lead by our talented guide lazyme to Spain and the Saffron farm to get supplies for everyone.

    Our Brave Captain Boomette is busy directing the efforts and ensuring all travelers know the importance of this excursion and the need to put forth a strong effort – after all, it’s still an expensive herb but well worth it when you can claim you’ve harvested your own.

    Our famous Cookbook Guru Lainey6605 is busy looking up recipes so we’ll have plenty of choses once we’ve completed the tour. Her favorite is already Alfresco Dining - Seafood Paella and Saffron Aioli by threeovens, but everyone will have something yummy to choose from.

    Our Captian’s trusty sidekick First mate mersaydees has already started assigning tasks to the rest of the time and from the sounds of it it’s not going to be easy. We’ve all got a long day ahead of us. As we land and drive to the Farm the fields are covered with crocus blooms.

    The team rushes out eager to start while our own Mr Chives, aka – Celticevergreen carries his pack and digs right in eager to collect the most.

    Bonnie G #2 figures he’s doing such a great job maybe she can get by with just observing, this looks like a lot of work to her so maybe she’ll just help with carrying the bag and enjoying the blooms. After all someone has to take photos of all the excitement.

    Threeovens and Marcasite Queen are having race to see who can beat Chives to the end of the row and looks like it’s a close race.

    Meanwhile Alaska Pam and Pesto lover have started heating up the kitchen to try out Paella lets hope there’s enough left over to bring back home.

    At the end of the day, everyone’s well fed, tired but pleased, what a great tour and can’t wait for the next grand adventure.


    I enjoyed your story, Bonnie G #2. I have your team marked off as complete for this challenge. Thank you for participating in this challenge. I hope you enjoyed it.
    HokiesMom
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:07 pm
    Food.com Groupie


    The Jammin’ Jazzberries even though newly acquainted eagerly agreed to go Saffron Farming and thought if we are going to go we are going to the best farm in Spain. So Tour Guide Mommy Diva being the best guide there is helped book our flight on a private jet to Azafranes Manchegos, in Alcala del Jucar Spain. Here is a map of the area:



    The scenery we took in during the flight into this beautiful area was stunning. Here are a few photos:





    While on the flight we got out our laptops and tried to read as much information as possible about the farms while we were Jammin’ with Pandora on the flight and drinking Sangrias made by our team captain, Alligirl as she is the best drink maker ever!

    We were really impressed as we were welcomed by the owner, Francisco Martinez who is a 5th generation producer in his family. This farm was developed by his ancestor Azafranes Manchegos in 1850. The drive outside of the charming village of Castilla La Mancha gave us time to learn that this area is known as the best area for saffron grown in Castilla La Mancha so we were honored to be invited to help harvest, calibrate and package the saffron as this company oversees all aspects of the saffron farming on their many plantations to the preparation and packaging in their own warehouses. Francisco also explained the importance of their farm partnering in the D.O. Regulatory Board Saffron from La Mancha to ensure the production and defend the quality of saffron worldwide.

    Off to the fields we skipped – well Dienia B. skipped faster than any of us as she was super excited to get started – even bought a special basket for collecting! That lady loves to shop especially with other’s money and we thought since this was a food.com tour that we’d just charge everything to their account. Mommy Diva gave us approval and we always obey our Mama.

    So in the early morning hours – too early for HokiesMom who would rather be sipping some coffee coffee.gif - we got down to business and after just a few minutes we realized that this was going to be hard work with all the bending over and how tedious it is to harvest each stigma from the blooms. We decided that we’d break for mid-morning sangria (Jolly Cranberry Juice Sangria, #442176) made by Alligirl (it is amazing what she carries in her tote bag! icon_eek.gif ! At that point Chef PotPie, the overachiever that she is, was showing us all her stems in her pretty pink basket. We were quite jealous actually but being the team players that we are we decided to let her keep working double time as we sipped on our Sangrias! icon_lol.gif

    Because it was getting late in the morning our shift was over and we had lunch on the patio and enjoyed the scenery.


    Then it was back to work as BigBadBrenda, our first mate, kept us motivated by singing all the songs she knows in Spanish (well we were motivated hoping that when we got to the production room she would stop!). The first stop was the drying room where the saffron threads are placed in special baskets that promote the best drying atmosphere for these delicate threads.


    Elainemay was first to head over to the calibration room where they evaluate the three levels for perfect saffron, color of the threads, measurement of the taste and finally the fragrance of the threads. Elainemay was hoping her basket of threads would be valued more than those collected by Chef PotPie so she could prove it is not the amount of threads in a basket but the value. It is a pretty tedious process so we won’t find out whose threads were of better quality until after the tour ends ~ whew that is good so we don’t have to deal with the bragging! icon_lol.gif

    As quietly as January Bride, cookgirl and AZPARZYCH were during this whole trip when it came to working in the kitchen these gals were Jammin’ to the tunes and using the utensils as microphones as they sang and cooked. It was quite a show but in the end they produced some absolutely wonderful dishes such as Halibut With Saffron Vanilla Cream Sauce, #304818 and Chickpea and Spinach Stew #318939 both written by January Bride as she really knows her saffron threads!

    We finished off the night with sitting by the pool

    drinking White Wine Sangria #483767 and Cinnamon Mocha Coffee from Taste of Home #281139. What a great way to learn about saffron farming and enjoying each other’s company from the Jammin’ Jazzberries team!

    NorthwestGal
    Sat Jul 21, 2012 9:46 pm
    Forum Host
    HokiesMom wrote:


    The Jammin’ Jazzberries even though newly acquainted eagerly agreed to go Saffron Farming and thought if we are going to go we are going to the best farm in Spain. So Tour Guide Mommy Diva being the best guide there is helped book our flight on a private jet to Azafranes Manchegos, in Alcala del Jucar Spain. Here is a map of the area:



    The scenery we took in during the flight into this beautiful area was stunning. Here are a few photos:





    While on the flight we got out our laptops and tried to read as much information as possible about the farms while we were Jammin’ with Pandora on the flight and drinking Sangrias made by our team captain, Alligirl as she is the best drink maker ever!

    Here are a few things we learned about this particular Saffron Farm. Azafranes Manchegos is a family business dedicated to the cultivation and trade of Spanish saffron since 1850. Currently Francisco Martinez is the 5th generation producer of saffron in his family. The company is located outside a charming village and known as an area of the best saffron grown in Castilla La Mancha. To ensure the best quality of this organic saffron, the company has its own plantations and oversees the preparation and packaging of all the saffron. It is a partner in the D.O. Regulatory Board Saffron from La Mancha to ensure the production and defend the quality of saffron worldwide.

    We were really impressed as we were welcomed by the owner, Francisco Martinez who is a 5th generation producer in his family. This farm was developed by his ancestor Azafranes Manchegos in 1850. The drive outside of the charming village of Castilla La Mancha gave us time to learn that this area is known as the best area for saffron grown in Castilla La Mancha so we were honored to be invited to help harvest, calibrate and package the saffron as this company oversees all aspects of the saffron farming on their many plantations to the preparation and packaging in their own warehouses. Francisco also explained the importance of their farm partnering in the D.O. Regulatory Board Saffron from La Mancha to ensure the production and defend the quality of saffron worldwide.

    Off to the fields we skipped – well Dienia B. skipped faster than any of us as she was super excited to get started – even bought a special basket for collecting! That lady loves to shop especially with other’s money and we thought since this was a food.com tour that we’d just charge everything to their account. Mommy Diva gave us approval and we always obey our Mama.

    So in the early morning hours – too early for HokiesMom who would rather be sipping some coffee coffee.gif - we got down to business and after just a few minutes we realized that this was going to be hard work with all the bending over and how tedious it is to harvest each stigma from the blooms. We decided that we’d break for mid-morning sangria (Jolly Cranberry Juice Sangria, #442176) made by Alligirl (it is amazing what she carries in her tote bag! icon_eek.gif ! At that point Chef PotPie, the overachiever that she is, was showing us all her stems in her pretty pink basket. We were quite jealous actually but being the team players that we are we decided to let her keep working double time as we sipped on our Sangrias! icon_lol.gif

    Because it was getting late in the morning our shift was over and we had lunch on the patio and enjoyed the scenery.


    Then it was back to work as BigBadBrenda, our first mate, kept us motivated by singing all the songs she knows in Spanish (well we were motivated hoping that when we got to the production room she would stop!). The first stop was the drying room where the saffron threads are placed in special baskets that promote the best drying atmosphere for these delicate threads.


    Elainemay was first to head over to the calibration room where they evaluate the three levels for perfect saffron, color of the threads, measurement of the taste and finally the fragrance of the threads. Elainemay was hoping her basket of threads would be valued more than those collected by Chef PotPie so she could prove it is not the amount of threads in a basket but the value. It is a pretty tedious process so we won’t find out whose threads were of better quality until after the tour ends ~ whew that is good so we don’t have to deal with the bragging! icon_lol.gif

    As quietly as January Bride, cookgirl and AZPARZYCH were during this whole trip when it came to working in the kitchen these gals were Jammin’ to the tunes and using the utensils as microphones as they sang and cooked. It was quite a show but in the end they produced some absolutely wonderful dishes such as Halibut With Saffron Vanilla Cream Sauce, #304818 and Chickpea and Spinach Stew #318939 both written by January Bride as she really knows her saffron threads!

    We finished off the night with sitting by the pool

    drinking White Wine Sangria #483767 and Cinnamon Mocha Coffee from Taste of Home #281139. What a great way to learn about saffron farming and enjoying each other’s company from the Jammin’ Jazzberries team!



    Both informative and entertaining, Mel. I really enjoyed reading your report. Thank you for reporting your completion. (I've got to party with alligirl; that girl knows how to pack a bag!). icon_biggrin.gif
    Annacia
    Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:14 pm
    Forum Host


    Ths Saffron Adventure

    When a group of ladies were put together to play ZWT-8 we found that we liked each other very much and thats how we all became the Chefs gone WILD! team (bet you thought I was going to say the Brady Bunch, right icon_biggrin.gif). When we found one of our destinations was to be Spain we were overjoyed. Our first thoughts were of that wonderful golden spice that Spain grows so well. Saffron is said to be worth it's weight in gold and being first class cooks, we are used to the finest ingredients in our dishes, so off we all went in search of Great Purple Crocus crop.



    Well, imagine our surprise when after pooling all of our grocery money to make the trip happen we discovered that we were too early!! Wouldn't one expect that a crop coming from flowers would be in mid summer instead of October?! I mean really, you would think that the travel agent might have mentioned that small detail. Oh Susie, yoohoo. Susie D of Susie's Travel Agency has some 'splain' to do. We did arrive in time to see the planting of the bulbs though. All we had to do was get to the farm.



    Anyway as we were so happy to just be there we decided to enjoy the time we had. Off we headed to Castilla-La Mancha. The Moors introduced saffron to Spain, and production now centers around this region of La Mancha. Along the way we stopped at a most pleasant tavern for some early lunch and they just happened to offer a fine liquid refreshment as well. Alright, it really wasn't much of a suprise to find sangria, we didn't choose a tavern by accident. It was a team vote.



    The place was so pleasant that we lingered longer than planned and became friends with the tavern's owners. In fact we hit it off so well with the family that when we had to leave velvet_sj and ssej1078_1251510 were no where to be found. Eventually we were told by some other patrons that they had last been seen heading out the back door with Carlos and Rodrigo, the owners sons, and a basket of wine and tapas!. The bus driver refused to wait any longer so hopefully they are having a great time and will get home ok.

    Everything was going fine when the bus stopped with a gasp and rising smoke from the motor. There was no way to repair the bus but luck was on our side when a somewhat slower but quite possibly more reliable mode of transport came along. We were able to hire this gentleman's cart for a fairly reasonable fee and we all piled in. Awalde volunteered to keep the boys entertained, bless her, and sang them Swiss songs.



    Arriving, at last, at our destination and were given a tour of the planting fields and a special presentation on the history of saffron which included the following, very interesting, information:

    Saffron is almost as old as civilization, and its influence on culinary history has been vast and almost mythic. It was apparently first cultivated in Persia and Asia Minor in ancient times, and is praised in the Bible's "Song of Solomon," in Homer's Iliad, in Virgil's poems, in the Papyrus Ebers (an important ancient Egyptian medical text), and in the first-century cookbook of Apicius. Saffron was introduced to Spain by the Moors in the tenth century. (Its name derives from an Arabic word of unknown origin, za'faran). Saffron was also highly appreciated in Classic Greece for its coloring and aromatic properties. It was used as a remedy to sleeplessness and to reduce hangovers caused by wine. It was also used to perfume bathing and as an aphrodisiac.

    During the Middle Age, saffron became well known in Great Britain. The legend says that, in the period of Edward III, a pilgrim brought a bulb of saffron hidden in a hole in his stick from Middle East to the town of Walden. There the bulb was grown and reproduced giving prosperity to the town while during the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold, and even today it is still the most expensive spice in the world. But sadly its high price led to its adulteration, which then was often severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, even condemned to death adulterers of saffron.

    Our fearless leader Nif fell asleep during the talk and Melanie D kept trying to keep her sitting upright so it might look as if she was awake. We finally braced her between Mel and Tea Girl. By the time the presentation was over Nif was awake and ready to rock the farm.

    After learning the enormous amount of flowers that it take to produce a very small amount of the finished saffron strands (With 3 stigmas per flower it takes 75,000 flowers (225,000 stigmas) to make one pound of saffron!) twissis ask if there was a use for the rest of the flower. She was told that some were used to feed some of the help. We were shocked! and were then given a demonstration:



    It was now quite late in the day and alvinakatz suggested that we return to town. The fine fellow who had spent the afternoon with us turned out to be a member of the family who own the farm and we were offered rooms for the night as well as dinner and soon kymber _71 was following our host as we all fell in behind.

    On the way to the house we we just had to stop at the farm store. Elmotoo, Canadian_in_the_Bay and myself were in like dirty shirts! SHOPPING!!!!! We bought beautiful golden containers of the very best saffron.



    I've saved the best part of our venture for last. Our lovely loof was taken head over heels by the grandson of our tour guide and he with her. We all stayed on at the nearest hotel and just two weeks later our team of Chefs gone WILD! went over the top and were bridesmaids for our beautiful Scarlet as she wed her gorgeous Spanish dream. WOW, what a trip. icon_biggrin.gif



    What won't we do for a pipe line to the finest ingredients. icon_wink.gif

    P.S. A few tips for the saffron buyer:

    When purchasing saffron, don’t be influenced by the price. A high price is not a guarantee of quality.

    Judge saffron by eye, feel and aroma. The best-quality threads will be red throughout, with little or no yellow, which would indicate the presence of the style. Threads with some yellow will still color and flavor your dish, but they should cost less than premium saffron because you will need more of them.

    Touch the saffron, if possible; it should feel brittle, as if it might break at the touch. If it is spongy, you can toast it lightly before using it, as many recipes recommend, but you are paying a high price for water.

    Smell the saffron. If it has a musty aroma, leave it behind. The best saffron has a honeyed, toasty perfume.

    It is preferable to purchase saffron threads, not powder, so that you can evaluate quality. Powder can be easily adulterated.

    Using saffron: For maximum impact, steep saffron threads in liquid for at least 20 minutes before using. The longer you steep it, the more flavor you will extract (up to a point, of course). The liquid can be hot stock, cream or water, or room-temperature wine or vinegar. There is no need to steep powdered saffron.

    When I got home I made Saffron Butter #428491 by Sharon123 with some of my purchased saffron.

    Charmie777
    Wed Jul 25, 2012 7:50 pm
    Forum Host


    The 'Nommers had been furiously cooking for this short visit to Spain. And furiously eating! icon_redface.gif A vigorous outing was needed to work off the extra poundage gained by too much Paella and Sangria!!

    CJAY suggested we explore a Saffron farm to learn about this seasoning that is so expensive and yet so wonderful! We all shouted a wonderful chorus of "Om Nom Nom!!!" and we were off!



    We ended up in the Aragon region of northeastern Spain on an enormous Saffron farm, with fields of beautiful Crocuses. Mikekey, being our fearless leader, immediately enlisted the help of Rafael Gomez, a local authority, to show us everything to know about Saffron.

    Since saffron is harvested in October, we were unable to partake in this activity, but we did enjoy the gorgeous purple of the crocuses and the wonderful lessons we learned. Elle Firebrand even wove some blossoms into her hair!



    There is no machine that can strip the saffron flowers, just as there is no mechanical way to speed their harvest. Hardworking hands must process about 70,000 flowers to obtain a pound of finished saffron. Hence the spice's astronomical price—roughly $450 a pound wholesale and as much as $4,500 retail for saffron of the highest quality.



    "Holy Schmoley," shouted Random Rachel (she's prone to random outbursts). "That's more than CJAY and Mikekey spend at Sur La Table combined!"

    During the Middle Ages, the use of saffron in cooking spread throughout Europe. Saffron is the defining ingredient in some of the Continent's most celebrated dishes—Spain's paella, the bouillabaisse of Provence, risotto milanese—and is essential to the cuisines of India, Morocco, and Iran. It has also been coveted throughout history as a dye, a perfume, and a medicine.

    JackieOhNo! quickly pulled out her ZWT Tour cookbook (she is our guru, you know!) and looked up some recipes for Paella. She found 13 recipes!! Her favorites are:
    Paella
    Paella on Spaghetti Squash



    Spanish Paella was prepared by the resident chef, Estevan, and we made more “Om Nom Nom” sounds. FLKeysJen declared it the best paella she has ever eaten!

    AlainaF was quick to purchase lots of saffron and use it to make Saffron Butter as gifts for each of us to remember this trip by.



    We enjoyed our outing so much!!! JostLori had us all pose for a group picture for us to remember our excursion by!
    NorthwestGal
    Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:56 am
    Forum Host
    Annacia wrote:


    Ths Saffron Adventure

    When a group of ladies were put together to play ZWT-8 we found that we liked each other very much and thats how we all became the Chefs gone WILD! team (bet you thought I was going to say the Brady Bunch, right icon_biggrin.gif). When we found one of our destinations was to be Spain we were overjoyed. Our first thoughts were of that wonderful golden spice that Spain grows so well. Saffron is said to be worth it's weight in gold and being first class cooks, we are used to the finest ingredients in our dishes, so off we all went in search of Great Purple Crocus crop.



    Well, imagine our surprise when after pooling all of our grocery money to make the trip happen we discovered that we were too early!! Wouldn't one expect that a crop coming from flowers would be in mid summer instead of October?! I mean really, you would think that the travel agent might have mentioned that small detail. Oh Susie, yoohoo. Susie D of Susie's Travel Agency has some 'splain' to do. We did arrive in time to see the planting of the bulbs though. All we had to do was get to the farm.



    Anyway as we were so happy to just be there we decided to enjoy the time we had. Off we headed to Castilla-La Mancha. The Moors introduced saffron to Spain, and production now centers around this region of La Mancha. Along the way we stopped at a most pleasant tavern for some early lunch and they just happened to offer a fine liquid refreshment as well. Alright, it really wasn't much of a suprise to find sangria, we didn't choose a tavern by accident. It was a team vote.



    The place was so pleasant that we lingered longer than planned and became friends with the tavern's owners. In fact we hit it off so well with the family that when we had to leave velvet_sj and ssej1078_1251510 were no where to be found. Eventually we were told by some other patrons that they had last been seen heading out the back door with Carlos and Rodrigo, the owners sons, and a basket of wine and tapas!. The bus driver refused to wait any longer so hopefully they are having a great time and will get home ok.

    Everything was going fine when the bus stopped with a gasp and rising smoke from the motor. There was no way to repair the bus but luck was on our side when a somewhat slower but quite possibly more reliable mode of transport came along. We were able to hire this gentleman's cart for a fairly reasonable fee and we all piled in. Awalde volunteered to keep the boys entertained, bless her, and sang them Swiss songs.



    Arriving, at last, at our destination and were given a tour of the planting fields and a special presentation on the history of saffron which included the following, very interesting, information:

    Saffron is almost as old as civilization, and its influence on culinary history has been vast and almost mythic. It was apparently first cultivated in Persia and Asia Minor in ancient times, and is praised in the Bible's "Song of Solomon," in Homer's Iliad, in Virgil's poems, in the Papyrus Ebers (an important ancient Egyptian medical text), and in the first-century cookbook of Apicius. Saffron was introduced to Spain by the Moors in the tenth century. (Its name derives from an Arabic word of unknown origin, za'faran). Saffron was also highly appreciated in Classic Greece for its coloring and aromatic properties. It was used as a remedy to sleeplessness and to reduce hangovers caused by wine. It was also used to perfume bathing and as an aphrodisiac.

    During the Middle Age, saffron became well known in Great Britain. The legend says that, in the period of Edward III, a pilgrim brought a bulb of saffron hidden in a hole in his stick from Middle East to the town of Walden. There the bulb was grown and reproduced giving prosperity to the town while during the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold, and even today it is still the most expensive spice in the world. But sadly its high price led to its adulteration, which then was often severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, even condemned to death adulterers of saffron.

    Our fearless leader Nif fell asleep during the talk and Melanie D kept trying to keep her sitting upright so it might look as if she was awake. We finally braced her between Mel and Tea Girl. By the time the presentation was over Nif was awake and ready to rock the farm.

    After learning the enormous amount of flowers that it take to produce a very small amount of the finished saffron strands (With 3 stigmas per flower it takes 75,000 flowers (225,000 stigmas) to make one pound of saffron!) twissis ask if there was a use for the rest of the flower. She was told that some were used to feed some of the help. We were shocked! and were then given a demonstration:



    It was now quite late in the day and alvinakatz suggested that we return to town. The fine fellow who had spent the afternoon with us turned out to be a member of the family who own the farm and we were offered rooms for the night as well as dinner and soon kymber _71 was following our host as we all fell in behind.

    On the way to the house we we just had to stop at the farm store. Elmotoo, Canadian_in_the_Bay and myself were in like dirty shirts! SHOPPING!!!!! We bought beautiful golden containers of the very best saffron.



    I've saved the best part of our venture for last. Our lovely loof was taken head over heels by the grandson of our tour guide and he with her. We all stayed on at the nearest hotel and just two weeks later our team of Chefs gone WILD! went over the top and were bridesmaids for our beautiful Scarlet as she wed her gorgeous Spanish dream. WOW, what a trip. icon_biggrin.gif



    What won't we do for a pipe line to the finest ingredients. icon_wink.gif

    P.S. A few tips for the saffron buyer:

    When purchasing saffron, don’t be influenced by the price. A high price is not a guarantee of quality.

    Judge saffron by eye, feel and aroma. The best-quality threads will be red throughout, with little or no yellow, which would indicate the presence of the style. Threads with some yellow will still color and flavor your dish, but they should cost less than premium saffron because you will need more of them.

    Touch the saffron, if possible; it should feel brittle, as if it might break at the touch. If it is spongy, you can toast it lightly before using it, as many recipes recommend, but you are paying a high price for water.

    Smell the saffron. If it has a musty aroma, leave it behind. The best saffron has a honeyed, toasty perfume.

    It is preferable to purchase saffron threads, not powder, so that you can evaluate quality. Powder can be easily adulterated.

    Using saffron: For maximum impact, steep saffron threads in liquid for at least 20 minutes before using. The longer you steep it, the more flavor you will extract (up to a point, of course). The liquid can be hot stock, cream or water, or room-temperature wine or vinegar. There is no need to steep powdered saffron.

    When I got home I made Saffron Butter #428491 by Sharon123 with some of my purchased saffron.



    I enjoyed your story, Annacia. I was especially delighted to hear of the nuptials of loof, that lucky girl! icon_wink.gif

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