Bay Laurel – Laurus nobilis
HERB OF THE YEAR 2009
Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis, is what we commonly refer to as Bay Leaves. The history of Bay is a lengthy and prestigious one. Throughout Greece and Rome wreaths were woven out of Bay to crown the heads of kings, priests, prophets, poets and the victors of battles and athletic and scholarly contests. The champions in the first Olympics in 776 B.C. were presented with Bay laurel garlands. Indigenous to the Mediterrnean, grown in our area, Bay requires a bit more care.
I have had one Bay tree for 23 growing seasons. As you can imagine it is in a very big pot where it winters inside. In spring, I move it outside to a shady location to acclimate it to the sun and after a week or so I move it (with the help of my husband, of course) to the deck where it gets full sun which is a minimum of 6 hours. I have seen them planted right in the ground in England, but we just get too cold in the winter months, thus it’s indoor winter sanctuary. In the winter it holds its own but does not actively grow. When early spring comes you will see a burst of new leaf growth. The new growth is a light green and very soft and tender and must be protected from outdoor frost. When we first put the bay tree outside we put it in my 52 year old little red wagon so we can roll it, in it’s pot, in and out of the garage if frost is possible. The wagon makes it’s mobility easier.
Leaves of the Bay can be harvested at any time of year to use in soups, stews and shellfish boils. It is one of the main ingredients of Bouquet Garni and is often in marinades, sauces and pickling brines. One of the characteristics of bay is that before you are ready to serve the soup, stew or whatever, the leaves need to be removed because they do not soften in the cooking process and could get stuck in the throats of those who try to eat them. So always remove them before serving. When we do our home canning of our own tomatoes, I put a bay leaf or two in the bottom of the canning jar along with some fresh basil. It gives the tomatoes a wonderful flavor.
In the last two years my two bay trees have had difficult times. We put one of them outside in early Spring and got a cold winter-type storm with ice and cold wind. My husband was out of town and I could not bring it inside so I covered it with blankets but it suffered from the temperature and I lost half of it. It is recovering and I am very positive about its growth this year. My other bay tree which was 8 feet tall (picture below) suffered from lack of water due to our winter travels. I almost thought I lost it but it’s will to live is forcing tremendous growth from the roots and I am also very positive about its survival. I have a lot of time and energy invested in these two plants. I have hand washed each scale-laden leaf with a toothbrush.
3 to 4 pounds boneless beef roast (round, chuck, brisket or your favorite)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf
1 cup catsup
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Rub salt into roast. Place n un-greased baking dish. Add bay leaf, cover and roast at 325º F for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until tender. Meanwhile mix the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat until bubbly. Remove roast from pan and shred the meat with two forks. Put meat back into baking dish, add contents of saucepan and stir thoroughly. Cover pan and put back into the oven for another hour. Make more sauce if needs be to coat meat. Serve on buns.
1 chicken, cut up
3 small onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 whole bay leaves
4 sprigs parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons Bouquet Garni (1 ½ T. at a time in mesh bag)
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 quart tomatoes
vegetables of choice (fresh, frozen or dried)
1 cup rice or barley or 3 cups pasta
1 can baked beans
Put cut up chicken in a soup pot, cover with water. Add onions, celery, bay leaves, parsley, 1 ½ Tbsp. Bouquet Garni and bouillon. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken from pot; allow to cool, them remove meat from bones. Skim fat off top of the soup stock, remove bouquet garni in bag and parsley and discard. Put another 1 ½ Tbsp. bouquet garni in bag and put in pot. Return chicken meat to pot, add tomatoes, vegetables and salt and pepper to taste. In the last half hour of cooking remove fabric bag and whole bay leaves. Add 1 can baked beans and rice, barley or noodles. Cook until pasta is done.
CHOCOLATE PUDDING WITH BAY
A recipe from my friend Susan Belsinger
2 cups half-and-half cream
3 large fresh bay leaves or 2 dried bay leaves
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2 pinches salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup milk
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Heat the half-and-half cream with the bay leaves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When the cream starts to bubble around the edges f the pan, remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. After the bay has infused in the cream for nearly 30 minutes, combine the cornstarch, sugar, salt and cocoa in a bowl and add the milk, whisk the contents together. Pour the mixture into the warm cream and place over moderate heat. Continue cooking and whisking as the pudding thickens.
When the pudding begins to bubble and comes to a boil, stir and boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the chocolate pieces until they are melted. Add the vanilla and stir well. Carefully remove the bay leaves and pour the pudding into six ramekins or custard cups. Place the custard cups on a plate or pan and allow them to come to room temperature. Refrigerate until chilled; at least 30 to 45 minutes. Serve at cool room temperature and garnish with whipped cream if desired.