Multi-use saffron vinegar which provides a zhuzh
“Merriam-Webster has added a bumper crop of 690 new words and terms to its dictionary this year, including “zhuzh” (a “small improvement” that completes the overall taste or look of something). If done right, the “zhuzh” might even warrant that well-known gesture of “satisfaction or approval” which has also made its way into this year’s edition: “chef’s kiss”.The Knowledge, October 2023
It will come as no surprise to Saucy readers to know that the ideas and information on this blog come from sources many and varied. It could be that inspiration strikes in a restaurant, or ideas come during a cookery lesson, or from a book; and, of course, all too often facts, I hope accurate ones, appear on a screen.
However, a very special luxury treat where information seeps into the brain comfortably is in bed; with a cup of coffee; and the beautiful and glossy Food and Travel Magazine. It’s title comprises my two favourite things, food and travel, and all the latest ideas and trends within are wrapped in stunning photography, seasoned with the odd dream of a weekend away, and peppered with recipes to try.
I’m not normally a sucker for fancy, expensive ingredients but Food & Travel always softens me up and makes me susceptible. And as a result my most recent indulgence is saffron vinegar.
It’s all thanks to Ben Orpwood, executive chef at 20 Berkeley who was waxing lyrical in an interview in F&T about blueberries. He was reporting that pickled blueberries were very underrated, and he made his in a pickling liquor which included saffron vinegar.
And I’ve discovered that saffron vinegar isn’t just a fad – in fact it’s given me an opportunity to use this wonderful new word, ‘zhuzh’
The zhuzhs (small improvements) you can achieve with saffron vinegar which may even result in a chef’s kiss (ecstatic approval)
- Well, obviously, in a vinaigrette. You can make it in a 1:1 proportion with olive oil. Honey is a good addition. Mustard is a good addition. And of course, a pinch of salt and possibly some pepper.
- Try soaking some raisins in the vinaigrette, and then pouring over boiled or microwaved cauliflower or broccoli.
- Drizzled over gazpacho.
- One fabulous use is to make a dipping sauce with an equal quantity of oil, and a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, and dip small slices of smoked tuna into it. Or try chicken wings.
- An idea from Terri Salminen’s Beautiful Food Stories. Poach thin fillets of white fish for three or four minutes in saffron vinegar. Remove the fish. Add a glug of sambuca and simmer to reduce for five minutes or so. Pour over the fish and leave to marinate at room temperature for a few hours. Serve with fried peppers and boiled potatoes.
- Also over baked red mullet.
- And over a seafood risotto.
- On sashimi and cerviche
- Over fresh figs
- A little dribbled over chicken goes well.
- Drizzled over bouillabaisse.
- Over a fried egg. Or poached egg on avocado toast
- You can deglaze a frying pan… but this seems a bit of a waste.
- Good with tomatoes.
- Mix with walnut oil and brown sugar and use as a dressing for grated kohlrabi.
- Not to mention it’s use as a part of a pickling liquor for blueberries.
- Over roasted vegetables
- Add a little to guacamole
How is saffron vinegar made?
Since saffron is so expensive it will come as no surprise that it’s only really worth making if all the other ingredients are also top quality.
It’s usually, but not always, made from either white wine, or cider vinegar. The saffron vinegar supplied by The Vinegar Shed, for example, comes from the south-west coast of France, near the border with Spain. It’s made from fortified red Banyuls dessert wine. The vinegar is aged for eight months in big glass flagons which are left outside. It’s then decanted into smaller bottles with the saffron added.
Where can I buy saffron vinegar
In the UK you can do as Ben Orpwood does and source from The Vinegar Shed.
In Canada you can buy it from Pur Safran.
In Austria you can buy it from Gegenbauer.
How to make home-made saffron vinegar
- Use a weight proportion of one part saffron to 2,000 of vinegar. In other words, multiply the number of grams of saffron you want to use (look on the packet – your scales may not be sensitive enough to weigh so little).
- Put the saffron into a sterilised bottle (follow this link for how to sterilise) and follow with the vinegar.
- Consider adding a little honey – if you do, make sure to mix it in well.
- Keep it in the fridge and leave it for at least a day.