Bay leaves, (Laurus nobilis), are one of those humble behind-the-scenes kitchen staples you don’t hear too much about, but are in everything. Why? They are aromatic and used foundationally in stocks, sauces, rice dishes, beans, stews–really any dish that requires long slow cooking usually benefits from the addition of bay leaf. The common thread here is they do well cooked in liquids, which unlocks their hidden flavor.
It is wise to exercise caution, and only 1-2 leaves are needed to flavor the dish. Too heavy of a hand and it will overpower the dish with a bitter flavor reminiscent of menthol, pine, or eucalyptus that can be off-putting. It is recommended to use the leaves whole and they should be retrieved after cooking as they are unpalatable to the diner.
Also called Bay laurel or laurel leaves, they are most commonly used dried, but fresh makes a great alternative and is a matter of preference. The dried form can also be used ground, but again, not with a heavy hand.
Fun fact: laurel leaves were used in the garlands or wreaths in the ancient Olympics as a symbol of victory.
The recommended optimum storage temperature is 32° – 40°F. Storing fresh bay leaves is different than storing dried, which are shelf-stable. With fresh, you want to keep them covered, and they are susceptible to curling and wilting when allowed to dehydrate. With the exception of oregano and basil, we recommend you store all herbs in the coldest part of your cooler. The temperature fluctuates from the front to the back of the cooler due to the location of the cooling unit and frequency of the door being opened. Download our PDF for more cooler storage hints.
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