Ever sit down at the dinner table, grab the pasta claw and dig out spaghetti, some sauce, a meatball and find a big green leaf in it? That’s a bay leaf, and in some Italian families if you find the bay leaf you get chocolate for dessert.
But the bay leaf is much more than that. Oh, much more.
The leaves come from the laurel tree, also known as a myrtle or pepperwood tree. They can be found along the west coast, Spain, Mexico, the West Indies and parts of Asia. Eaten raw they are a tad bitter, but dried they become somewhat herbal making them perfect for cooking.
More about cooking with them later.
The ancient Romans and Greeks used bay leaves to fashion wreaths of laurel or headwear that symbolized victory. The bay leaf has also been used as an active ingredient in killing pesky insects and critters. Crushed bay leaves release vapor that kill moths, fleas, roaches, even mice. The leaves also deter mold.
They have also been used in herbal medicine. The essential oils of the bay leaf relive swelling. They can soothe an upset tummy and aid digestion. They also reduce unexpected farting. A rinse of bay leaves can reduce dandruff, and a tonic of boiled water and bay leaves can relive cold congestion, the flu and nasty coughs.
Now back to cooking.
Use the bay leaf in soups, stews and sauces. Grind them with other herbs and spices in a spice grinder for some pretty cool rubs. Or you can just use it as a base for a simple sauce that is primo on chicken or ham.
Bay Leaf Sauce
¾ Cup Brown Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
6-8 Bay Leaves
1 Cup Beer
Combine all the ingredients in a pan and heat over medium temp for 30 minutes. Strain.
Which reminds of the old classic stand-by…Old Bay Seasoning.
Invented by a German immigrant in 1939 and named after an early passenger ship called the Old Bay Line, this seasoning is more than just a staple in crab, crawfish or shrimp boils.
Besides the bay leaf, Old Bay is a mixture of dried mustard, celery salt, paprika, cloves and other secret ingredients.
It can be used as a seasoning for popcorn, fried chicken, and corn on the cob or boiled peanuts.
Or it can be the highlight of a coastal style Bloody Mary.
Old Bay Bloody
1 Qt. V-8, Chilled
¼ Cup Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
1 Tbs. Whatsthishere Sauce
1 Tbs. Piri Sauce
2 Tbs. Horseradish
1 Tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Celery Salt
¾ Cup Absolut Peppar Vodka
1 Habanero Pepper, Uncut
Old Bay Seasoning
Dip the rim of a tulip glass with in lime juice and swirl it in a plate of Old Bay seasoning.
In a large pitcher combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into glasses with ice and garnish this baby with almost anything you want.
Old Bay. It’s great on seafood and great on anything else. Check out the video for more information.