Bay leaves hail from the Mediterranean in and around Turkey. They’re members of the laurel family, the leaves used to make wreaths for Olympic champions in the days before gold medals. In the Middle Ages bay leaves were popular insecticides and medicine, their lauric acid is a good fix for keeping moths out of your dry goods. My mom taught me to place 3 or 4 leaves in my flour to keep pests at bay. No pun intended J
Bay leaves have a gentle flavor which pairs easily with roasted meats as well as soups, stews, stocks and sauces. They were used heavily in Medieval and Renaissance kitchens and their incorporation into today’s cuisine has not ceased.
I was grateful to get my hands on freshly picked bay leaves last summer. Family visiting from California picked a huge batch of leaves for my Aunt Maggie who was kind enough to split her gift with me. My “family full of foodies” knows the benefit of having this fresh beauty on hand so parting with half her gift was an act of foodie love!!! And you know me, I was excited to get them home and dehydrate them for long-term storage.
Fresh bay leaves can be found with other fresh herbs in some grocery stores or you can grow your own bay laurel tree indoors! Well my local grocer didn’t have any fresh so I turned to the internet. I found a 5” tree for under $5 and decided to try my hand at growing it indoors. So far so good – however, it is slow growing so it will be a while before I can pick any leaves to use or preserve. In the meantime, I have two full pint jars stuffed with dehydrated leaves I often use when canning chicken soup and beef stew. Here is all you need to do to have your own supply of dried bay leaves on hand…
Place bay leaves on mesh drying trays, stem side facing the center of the dehydrator so the air current dries the thickest part of the leaf first. Dry leaves at 110 degrees for 5 to 7 hours. Leaves are done when they are crisp and break easily when bent. Store your dehydrated bay leaves whole to preserve the best flavor. Leaves can be used whole when cooking and canning or you may crush them when making spice bags.
The Canning Diva