Does Saffron Get Expired?
Saffron is one of the most valuable and expensive spices of the world, and obviously, we will try hard to stop our stash to lose its worth.
And if you already store it for a while, the question “does saffron go bad?” comes up.
Or maybe you’ve found a great deal on crocus sativus and are debating if stocking up makes sense. Since the price of saffron is quite high due to a quite complicated process of collecting the saffron threads, taking advantage of a sale makes sense.
But on the other hand, you only use the spice from time to time, so buying in bulk would mean you buy enough of it for a few years. And you’re not quite sure the spice retains potency for such a long period.
In this article, we go through storage, shelf life, potency, and going bad of saffron. If you’d like to learn a few things about this spice, you’re in the right place. Read on with Saffron Express articles.
Available in threads (whole stigmas) and ground, your best bet is to go with saffron strands. Not only will they keep their flavor longer, but you will also be assured you have purchased pure saffron.
Powdered saffron is not as strong, tends to lose flavor, and is also easily adulterated with fillers and imitations. Since so little is needed, you will find ground saffron sold in packets of about 1/16 of a teaspoon, and threads equaling about 1/4 gram or 1/2 of a teaspoon. Yet, these seemingly small amounts will often flavor more than one dish.
If you cannot find crocus sativus on your local market’s spice shelves, try asking at the service desk. It is often hidden in the office to thwart would-be thieves.
Threads should be usually crushed before using. For ground saffron, lightly toast and grind threads yourself. Steep them in the cooking liquid before using. The longer you steep the saffron threads, the stronger the flavor and color.
Some frugal cooks who steep a few threads in a few tablespoons of hot liquid for 10 minutes, use the liquid in their recipe, then dry and reuse the threads a second time.
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How to Store Saffron
Crocus sativus is sold in strands or powdered form, but the storage guidelines are pretty much the same. Storing saffron is like storing other spices, like cinnamon, or bay leaves. First and foremost, you should keep crocus sativus in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and sources of heat.
Store saffron in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to six months for maximum flavor. Crocus sativus, like other herbs and spices, is sensitive to light, so wrap the packet in foil to protect it further. crocus sativus will not spoil, but it will lose increasingly more and more of its flavor with age. A dark cupboard or a spice drawer in the kitchen is the way to go.
Once you open the container, it’s more of the same. Remember to keep the container or bag sealed tightly after every use.
If your packaging isn’t resealable, consider transferring the product to a small jar or an airtight container. Either of these will keep moisture at bay and keep it away from “fresh” air. That, in turn, helps the spice to retain its potency for longer.
Take extra care if you’re transferring saffron strands so they won’t break. Otherwise, you will end up with half-strands half-powdered saffron.
How Long Does Saffron Last
Just like pretty much any spice, crocus sativus is best used as soon as possible for optimal flavor and potency. And over time, it will slowly lose its potency, so after storing it for two or three years, it definitely won’t be as fragrant and flavorful as it was fresh. That’s why fresh saffron is more expensive than the older ones.
That being said, both powdered saffron and saffron strands usually come with a best-by date. And as long as you take good care of the spice, it will last many months or even years past that date.
If there’s no date on the package, you can assume it should retain most of its taste for 2 – 3 years. Of course, as time goes by, you might need to add more of it to the dish you’re cooking for it to taste as it supposed to.
How to Tell if Saffron Has Gone Bad
So, as we already mentioned, crocus sativus doesn’t really spoil, unless of course water gets to the powder or the strands.
But the spice, like other ones, loses its potency gradually. Therefore, after storing it for a long time, it might have little to no flavor. Thus, if you keep it for a prolonged period, it’s best to test if there’s any flavor left before using it.
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An excellent way to tell if the spice is still usable is to rub a small amount of it between your fingers and give it a whiff.
If the aroma is still strong and the flavor robust, the saffron is still usable. But if the spice has lost its smell, it’s time to discard the saffron.
If the smell and taste have weakened significantly, it’s up to you to decide what to do. You can throw it out for quality reasons or use more of it than usual to get the results you’re looking for. This way, you will finish the package sooner.