Bay Leaves - The Herb That Thinks It's A Spice

Caesar with Bay Leaf Crown
Caesar with Bay Leaf Crown

Caesar wore a bay leaf crown to signify his dominance, however some speculate that it was to conceal his baldness. Bay leaves have been used in the kitchen for centuries, from the first century Roman handbook Apicius to the dog-eared recipe cards in your grandmother's cabinet.

Bay leaves of good quality should be pale green, free of defects, and sold primarily whole. When the essential oils from the dried leaf disperse, they provide a spicy bitterness to rich foods like stews, gravies, and cream sauces, balancing and enhancing them. Allspice, basil, cardamom, chilies, cloves, fennel, ginger, garlic, onion, shallot, lemon, orange, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, chervil, black pepper, rosemary, savoury, sage, and thyme are among the herbs that go well with bay leaves.

When you open a container of bay leaves, it should smell pleasant, much like any good herbs and spices. They should be introduced to dishes early to allow all of their pungent flavours to emerge, and they should be removed before serving because whole leaves can be harsh and difficult to stomach.

Fresh Bay Leaves
Fresh Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are used to make the classic bouquet garni, which is a knotted bundle of herbs that includes thyme springs, rosemary, parsley, and chervil. In cream sauces and clear broths, simmer this "onion pique" to impart rich flavours without changing the colour or texture.

Bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinct flavour and scent, whether fresh or dried. Before eating, remove the leaves from the prepared food (see safety section below). In many nations, the leaves are used to flavour soups, stews, braises, and pâtés. Fresh leaves have a mild flavour that does not emerge fully until several weeks after picking and drying.

Bay leaves are fragrant and have a strong, bitter taste when eaten whole. The aroma of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste, as it is with many spices and flavourings. The aroma of the dried leaf is herbal, slightly flowery, and reminiscent of oregano and thyme.

Cooking With Bay Leaves

When cooking with bay leaves myrcene, a component of many essential oils used in perfumery is extracted. They also have eugenol in them.

The ancient Greeks utilised bay leaves to flavour their food. Many European cuisines (particularly those of the Mediterranean), as well as those of the Americas, use them in their cookery. Soups, stews, brines, meat, seafood, vegetable meals, and sauces all contain them.

The leaves are also used to flavour a variety of traditional French and Italian meals. The leaves are usually used whole (as a bouquet garni) and then removed before serving (they can be abrasive in the digestive tract). Bay leaf (Thai: bai kra wn) is used in a few Arab-influenced Thai and Laotian cuisines, most notably massaman curry.

In the Caribbean Islands, bay leaves are also used to make jerk chicken. Bay leaves are soaked and placed on the grill's cold side. The leaves are topped with pimento sticks, and the chicken is placed on top and smoked. The leaves are frequently used intact in Caribbean soups, stews, and other meals.

Other Interesting Uses For Bay Leaves

Bay leaves can also be strewn around a pantry to keep meal moths, flies, and cockroaches at bay. The essential oil can be used as an insect repellent.

In entomology, bay leaves have been utilised as the active element in killing jars. Under a sheet of paper, the crushed, fresh, young leaves are placed in the jar. They produce fumes that kill insects slowly yet effectively while also keeping the specimens relaxed and easy to mount. Molds are discouraged from growing on the leaves. Large beetles and similar species will not be killed by them, however, insects killed in a cyanide killing jar can be transferred to a laurel jar to be mounted.

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