Summer, Interruptions, and Saffron Honey to the Rescue

IMG_9710 - Version 2I hope your summer was nice. Mine was more of a giant lesson in life. During the normally quiet weeks of early August while I tried to relax a little in Greece, I received four (!) interview requests. But instead of stepping back and politely declining, or asking my agent to do so, my overly ambitious self went into overdrive. Never one able to say “no” easily, I convinced my self that every one of those requests was worth the time and effort, always hoping that I will change the world — if only by helping people understand ancient grains a little better.

Well, the world did change, but mostly on my end. I returned from my voluntarily interrupted vacation less than restored, and almost immediately fell into a terrible summer cold. This, at last, took me away from my computer for good. I was a complete mess. I will spare you the details.

Still, wiped out or not, one more task beckoned. Before leaving for Greece, I had made a commitment to be a guest on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU in our nation’s capital. They already had made a change to accommodate my vacation schedule so there was no way I could not show up. Being on this show with the fascinating topic of Ancient Grains and Wild Greens was a dream come true. How could I possibly cancel last minute? Just because I had been flat on my back for 3 days? Just because I had a terrible headache, could barely breath, and had not been able to eat for 24 hours? Not me. Never!

On the morning of the show, I heaved myself out of bed, just in time to make it. I showered and dressed in bare basics, equipped myself with a thermos of hot tea, tissues, and a bag of lozenges. My reasonable husband didn’t even try talking me out of it! He just dropped off his insanely imbalanced clown of a wife and decided to let me fend for myself.

And fend I did. Thank God no one can see you on radio! Normally when I’m interviewed from my home-office, I always dress well. I even put on lipstick! This time, I sat there in all my miserable beauty, with my cheat sheets about grains spread out on one side and a warm cup of mint tea on the other, always concerned that I would knock the liquid over some technical equipment and end the show.

But I still could speak. The tech guy in the studio said I sounded great (but he had a cold coming himself so I believe he was just cheering himself on.) And when I learned of the “cough button”, pressed many times during the next 60 minutes — I was ready. Miraculously so seemed my brain. I felt alert and happy as a clam which you can see on the grainy picture here on the side.

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In the end, I had a blast, seriously. I can never stop talking about grains and Kojo was amazing, fast and whip-smart, and charming, as always. You can listen to the show here:

Saffron honey helped me through my self-inflicted crisis. Before leaving for Greece, I had made a small jar which I discovered in a cupboard. As I looked for ways to sooth my aching throat, I often had a small spoon with my hot tea and felt instant relief. My Greek mom had introduced me to local saffron honey last year. Some of you might remember the spectacular speckled liquid from my Instagram feed. I have been spellbound by its mesmerizing color and delicate aroma. So I started tinkering with a recipe to recreate the memory of this delicacy.

As soon as I recovered from my personal week of hell, I decided to write about my giant learning lesson — don’t work on vacation! — and to introduce you to this wonderful honey. Good quality saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is key to this simple recipe. I’m lucky because I always have beautiful Greek saffron from Kozani at home from my mom, and (mom, don’t keep reading!) an even better one from my sister-in-law from Iran.

Enjoy the homemade honey saffron on a slice of buttered whole-grain bread for breakfast or drizzled over a bowl of Greek yogurt with a few toasted walnuts. It’s amazing! Or spoon some into a bowl of warm breakfast oats and wait for the vibrant strands to release their orange hues.

Dear readers, I’d love to hear from you. What is your experience with saffron? Do you use it in your kitchen? Often? Rarely? How do you use it? Did you ever have a memorable saffron dish? What’s your favorite recipe using saffron?

Homemade Saffron Honey

1/2 cup mild honey (see Fine Points below)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, lightly crushed between your clean (!) fingers

1 Spoon or pour the honey into a small screw-top glass jar. Stir in the saffron threads, close the jar, and set aside for at least 3 days to allow the flavors to meld. I like it best after infused for 5 days. Enjoy!

Fine Points
Saffron has a very delicate aroma so you should choose a mild honey such as clover or tupelo to allow the spice to shine.
My understanding is that honey is a powerful natural preservative but since I am not a food safety expert so I recommend you make a small amount at a time to consume within a couple of weeks.

You can learn more about choosing, storing, and buying saffron under and Esteemed Mediterranean food authority Paula Wolfert recommends Kalustyan’s in New York as an excellent source. My lovely Facebook friend and chef Elatia Harris highly recommends Vanilla, Saffron Imports in San Francisco. Sahar Saffron and Penzeys are other sources I found. Sahar Saffron carries Greek Kozani saffron which is a little more affordable and worth seeking out.

And, last but not least, here is a link to my Instagram picture of my mom’s Greek saffron honey which inspired this post. Join me there as well:


13 Responses to Summer, Interruptions, and Saffron Honey to the Rescue

  1. Pingback: From Greece, for Autumn: Honey-roasted Grapes with Thyme | Maria Speck

  2. hello maria

    was really interested to read your post. have only just a week ago planted some saffron, and, like you, marvelled at the glorious honey. i also wrote about it:
    very best

    • Maria says:

      How wonderful! Thank you, Penny, for linking to your post. I guess this is the next great honey flavor trend. So glad you enjoyed it. Have a great day!

  3. Oh, Maria, I can so relate to this post, why do we make ourselves SO CRAZY? But you did sound great on Kojo and now you’ve inspired me to prepare some saffron honey for myself to soothe my cough and migraine (well it takes 3 – 5 days so maybe I’ll save it for the next one.)

    • Maria says:

      Oh, dear Aviva — I so feel for you. Thank you for your sweet note. I hope one day there will be a real cure for migraines. In the meantime, yes, try some honey — even a simple one will do. Feel better soon, dear friend.

  4. Jacqueline says:

    I am sorry that you got run down and sick, I’m bookmarking this to listen to the show later. Right now I’ve just finished a dinner of roasted root vegetables which I glazed with a honey-vinegar-miso glaze. Am now thinking this saffron-infused honey would be a lovely alternative next time.

    Feel better! Congrats on all your well earned success.

    • Maria says:

      Thank you, Jackie! You are such a darling, always cheering everyone on. I have a few more experiments going on with my saffron honey. I was to ill to finish my two thousand ambitious test runs… I will keep everyone posted! Cheers, and have a great night!

  5. I will be posting extensively on The Rambling Epicure about saffron. One of those research projects that goes on for many years. I am convinced saffron is the dark red thread that ties many ancient civilizations together — from India to Ireland. When I read you could compare the tastes of saffron and honey, I had to start urgent personal inquiry, first by commingling the two sensations….

    • Maria says:

      How fascinating, Elatia. Please please keep me posted when you post in the rambling epicure. I will be missing a lot of things as I’m feverishly working on the next book. But tag me, and I will be curious about your research. Thank you again. Can’t wait to read more!

  6. Reading your vivid description of your ordeal in all its lurid details I almost felt all the symptoms myself!

    I used saffron so far only in rice dishes. We brought a supply in Istanbul, and I will give your interesting honey a try.

    • Maria says:

      So glad to hear you didn’t get sick, Karin :)! Thank you for dropping a note, and I do hope you try it. The more I get to know it, the more I love working with saffron.

  7. Delightful! Saffron has had medical applications for 4000 years at least, and only relatively recently entered the annals of pure gastronomy. Experts have compared the taste of saffron to honey — only without the sweetness. A highlight of my cooking with saffron was combining Greek pine honey with Greek saffron — the taste of a Bronze Age paradise. Despite the weepy-making synergy of that, I agree with you the more telling combination would be saffron and a milder honey… Glad you like my guy in San Francisco, Juan San Mames. He now has Afghan saffron, from right across the border from Khorasan Province in Iran, where most Iranian saffron is produced. Glad you are feeling better! xoxoxo

    • Maria says:

      Thank you so much for writing in, Elatia. You are such a gem, and so kind of you to share your source. After reading the information on the site you provided, I believe this indeed is someone with deep knowledge of the spice. I hope readers will enjoy it. And, even more surprising, you have combined saffron with honey already. Wow! You should have written this post. Thanks again for sharing your enthusiasm and passion with us.

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