My friend went to Thailand and brought me back a bag labelled "Saffron" that contains a spice that's the right color, but ground, not in threads. A) Is it really saffron and B) How would you convert quantity for ground vs. threads?
Unless you have it tested at a lab there is no real way you will be able to tell if it is the real McCoy. I would try and taste test a little in some warm water, if it tastes good, then to hell if its real or not, also you will see what color the water turns, bright, bold yellow is what you want. If it tastes bad, then throw it out or use it for coloring, similar to paprika. If you want to convert the powdered saffron, I would reckon 1/8 teaspoon is equal to about 7 or 8 threads.
What you are referring to is most likely safflower. It's all color and no flavor---like those saffron colored robes buddhist monks wear. Saffron comes from the stamin of the crocus flower.
Mr_Vittles, I fell truly, madly, deeply for you with your reply to the question about shrimp heads. But now? I'm not so sure I can carry on with someone who uses paprika for nothing more than garnish on devilled eggs. Sigh.
Sorry, Bea, for putting you second. What a great friend you have! Anyone who would brave Customs by bringing a bag of powder labeled "Saffron" is a good friend indeed, because it is kind of like buying drugs: Unless you use it frequently it's best to purchase it in small amounts, like a gram or less at a time. Like most herbs and spices, whole things have a longer shelf-life than things that are chopped, ground, etc. Ground saffron must be stored in a cool dark place and should be used within 6 months of purchase, but saffron threads can be kept for three years if stored properly. Also, ground saffron can be "cut" with turmeric and other herbs/spices (again, just like drugs), but it's pretty hard to fake saffron threads. If you want to be sure, do what Mr_Vittles suggests and send it to a lab.
If a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of threads, use a pinch less than 1/4 teaspoon of ground saffron. And be very careful to not use too much--I had paella once that had so much saffron it tasted bitter, the way codeine cough syrup tastes. It was so yellow it was almost orange.
@betteirene I am sorry to disappoint you with my statement. I will try to clarify. I do know the value of paprika, but I do not know the value others have on the spice. I do use Pimenton, as well as some of the best Hungarian hot paprikas I can find. I know of paprika's flavor in sweet, hot, and smoked, as well as the dizzying array of dishes that can tease the subtle flavors out of fine paprikas. Many people, however, do not know of paprika's flavor and use it primarily for its coloring abilities, IE chili con carne. I am sorry that I did not clarify myself before, but I was just trying to help Miss Bea as quickly as possible, and spat out something I thought the majority people could identify with. My apologies. Keep suckin' them heads betteirene!
Frankly, it sounds like the kind of thing that gets packaged for tourists...and, as pierino says, is probably not saffron at all.
Proper saffron provides not just colour, but also a very strong flavour, which is why a few threads are sufficient for most dishes.
I know in Egypt they have huge bags of 'saffron' at the spice shops in the tourist markets. Were it real saffron, they wouldn't be sitting in a Cairo market flogging stuff to tourists!
I also can't imagine that Thailand produces much saffron. The crocus from which saffron comes doesn't particularly like a hot, damp climate.
What you have is probably tumeric. In Grenada they sell bags of tumeric to tourists labeled saffron. 1) Tumeric does grow in southeast Asia and 2) tumeric is also known as Indian Saffron.
Agree with all of the above that what you have isn't even a distant cousin to saffron. Do you have a hankering to dye a piece of fabric an interesting and probably beautiful color?