Saffron is a type of turmeric that tastes subtly sweet, and its scent is described as metallic. It can be a great asset to many foods, and enhance the flavor and aroma. It is rising in popularity for consumers and chefs, and is full of antioxidants.
Interestingly, saffron does not expire naturally. But it does have a shelf life, which can range anywhere from six months to three years, depending on how well it is stored.
Shelf Life of Saffron
The quality of saffron is negatively affected by heat, moisture, oxygen, and sunlight. A small amount of exposure to these elements can harm your saffron, and the quality of its smell and taste will be harmed. Threads of saffron last two to three years, while ground saffron lasts for up to one year.
To optimize the freshness of saffron, follow the storage instructions that should be on the bottle. It is always best to keep it away from any outside elements. The bottle will likely have an expiration date as well, which is best to abide by.
Whole saffron threads keep better than ground saffron, and its potent scent and flavor tend to last longer. Ultimately, if your saffron shows no signs of worsening, it is okay to consume.
How Saffron is Made
Saffron is harvested off of saffron crocus flowers, which are harvested during fall. The saffron we know and purchase at the store cannot be made without humans interceding, which contributes to its high price.
Harvesting saffron requires an extreme amount of physical labor. A saffron flower only produces three stigmas, which are very sensitive to sunlight and must be harvested by hand, right before sunrise. The stigmas are then dried for twelve hours.
Many people who cultivate saffron flowers believe that harvesting them mechanically damages them, as they are so delicate. And because each flower only has three stigmas, it takes around 16,000 flowers to make just two pounds of saffron.
Like most things, the quality of saffron varies based on many factors like its age and color. Lab tests have been developed specifically for saffron in recent years, and it is used by companies who buy it in bulk. So if you buy saffron from a reputable place, you can bet that it will be of high quality.
If your saffron has gone bad, it will likely be discolored or its smell will be off. There should be a date on the bottle that can also be a good indicator of if saffron has gone bad. Any signs of moisture or mold on saffron means it should be discarded.
If it is stored properly, saffron can last for a couple of years. Fortunately, the worst thing that can happen if you eat expired saffron is a disappointing taste. There are not really any health risks to eating saffron that has gone past its sell-by date.
Because saffron is a delicate spice that can be rather expensive, storing it properly is important. First of all, keeping it in the refrigerator should be avoided at all costs. It seems like the easiest way to store it, but the moisture in the fridge can quickly catch on to saffron and deplete it.
Store your saffron in a cool, dry, part of the pantry or a cabinet. The best way to ensure that the quality of saffron lasts as long as possible is to put it in an airtight container and wrap in foil. Be sure to place it in a dark area in addition.
If you bought a large amount of saffron, consider storing it in a few separate containers. Every time you open a container of saffron, it is exposed to elements that can quickly make it lose its quality. So, only opening a small amount of time will keep more of your saffron as fresh as possible.
Can Saffron Be Frozen?
While refrigerating saffron should always be avoided, if you bought it in bulk you may be questioning whether it is safe to freeze. The answer to this is yes, it can safely be frozen, which can elongate the amount of time it stays fresh for.
Freezing saffron does not make it any less delicate, so there are a few tips to keep in mind when doing this. Wrapping it in aluminum foil will protect it from elements, and dividing it into smaller portions in separate containers can optimize this.
A freezer bag is a great choice for freezing saffron, but an airtight container can work just as well as long as it is dry and clean. When you are ready to use saffron from the freezer, let it thaw out at room temperature before use.
Saffron is a very delicate spice that has a considerably long shelf life. This can range from six months to three years, depending on the type and how well it is stored. Fortunately, if you happen to eat saffron past its best-by date, the most you would experience is a disappointing flavor and aroma.