Forcing Bulbs: Saffron Crocus Two Ways

    

 

About twelve-and-a-half years ago, my life became inextricably linked to a Swede, my husband, who grew up half-time in Stockholm and half-time in Boston. As a result he has a deep love of Swedish Christmas traditions which mainly revolve around food that brightens up the darkest December days with color and flavor. I too have come to love these traditions and sharing them with our girls. The first tradition falls on December 13th, Santa Lucia Day (luciadagan) and the second on Christmas Eve for which we prepare a giant julbord.

On both occasions, a favorite of ours has become saffron buns (saffransbullar) also known as Lucia buns (lussekatter). Saffron is often more expensive than gold per ounce, so this is a special holiday treat for us, as it is for most Swedes. What is not more expensive than gold per ounce are saffron crocus bulbs. This is my first year trying to grow saffron crocus in the garden and indoors and I will keep you all apprised of my experiments in both arenas.

Our Annual Swedish Julebord: cured meats and cheeses, especially Jarlsberg, Limpa bread, saffransbullar, pickled herring, gravlox, Swedish meatballs and gravy, lingonberry jam, dill potatoes, and pickled beets.

Traditional Santa Lucia costumes from the girls' Swedish grandmother (farmor).


Readers may recall that I planted saffron crocus bulbs earlier this fall in October in my front yard garden in the beds closest to the house, hoping that in zone 6, which is a little chilly for this variety, that there would be enough solar gain in this south facing bed to keep them toasty enough until spring. Well mission accomplished if a little early; I noticed on November 11th all 25 crocus were peaking through the earth. I decided to dig up seven of them and bring them indoors hoping they might, just might bloom for Christmas.

     

I had ordered a second set of 25 crocus bulbs to force indoors and these bulbs are currently "chilling" in a box at the back of my refrigerator. The recommended cold dormancy time I found in my research for forcing crocus, was 12 weeks. Which means that the bulbs in my fridge will not be ready to plant until the end of January, but maybe we can have a late-winter, early spring saffron treat. Below, in addition to the recipe for saffransbullar, you will find updates on both experiments as I delve into the spice trade.

Saffron Buns / Saffransbullar / Lussekatter

Ingredients

  • 2 - 1/8 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 2 packets of dry yeast
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 gram saffron
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 7 - 1/2 c. flour
  • raisins
  • 1 egg

     

Instructions:

  1. Heat milk and butter in a sauce pan to 100 deg. (F). Add yeast stiring until dissolved.
  2. Stir in sour cream, saffron, sugar, salt, and 7 c. of flour kneading until dough is smooth and silky.
  3. Let rise for 40 min. and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Flour work surface and punch down risen dough, then divide into 36 pieces.
  5. Roll into a rope 5 to 6 inches long and then lay in an S-shape on the parchment paper.
  6. Garnish with raisins in the center of each S-curl.
  7. Cover with a towel and let rise another 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 325 deg. (F)
  9. Brush each bun with beaten egg and then bake until puffed and golden, 5 - 10 minutes depending on your elevation. Here at roughly 6500 feet, I wouldn't let them go longer than five minutes with out checking on them.
I will continue to add weekly updates to this post and subsequent bulb forcing posts throughout the winter, so keep checking back and sharing your own progress with bulb forcing this winter.
 

Progress of Bulbs Transplanted from the Garden

Week One: Second Week in November (27 Weeks Until Last Frost)

    

I started by planting three of the emerging saffron crocus bulbs from the garden and then thought better of it and added four more to fill up the pot I had purchased for this purpose. In my research, I found that each plant will produce approximately three stamen per flower, which is a single serving size for one person. To grow enough saffron for just my immediate family to enjoy for Santa Lucia and Christmas Eve, we would need to have eight blooms. While I do not anticipate having enough this year; bulbs divide each year, so the 50 bulbs I bought this year will be 100 next year and depending on how many I can keep alive, we just may have enough by next Christmas to entertain family and friends with copious saffransbullar. Maybe in three years, I can consider adding cash to my daughters' college fund from my sales of the worlds most expensive spice.

 

Week Two: Third Week in November (26 Weeks Until Last Frost)

The saffron crocus have grown in height, but do not yet show signs of blooming and I am wondering if they need more light. This week I am going to move them to a sunny window that gets direct morning sunlight to see if this stimulates any blooms. With as much as they have grown, we may just be able to make a paella in mid January. If this happens we will post it down below.

Week Three: Fourth Week in November (25 Weeks Until Last Frost)

  Come back and see our progress and share yours!

Week Four: First Week in December (24 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Five: Second Week in December (23 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Six: Third Week in December (22 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Seven: Fourth Week in December (21 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Eight: Fifth Week in December (20 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Nine: First Week in January (19 Weeks Until Last Frost)

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Week Ten: Second Week in January (18 Weeks Until Last Frost)

 

Progress of Bulbs Forced in the Refrigerator

 

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