Before I go any further, this is the European Bay tree I’m talking about- Laurus nobilis. I’m sure all bay leaves can all be dried in the same way but it’s best to be clear.
I ran out of bay leaves last week and as I hate having to buy things that are growing in the garden I thought I’d have a go at drying some. During the summer I used some for pickling but never got round to drying any. At the time I wasn’t using many and thought I had enough.
Anyway, it’s a simple technique – pick good, sound leaves (preferably in summer when the flavours will be at their peak), wash, dry and microwave.
We have just bought a new microwave for the farm kitchen so I could only find two choices for heat (I’m a man, we don’t read manuals). Thirty seconds on defrost produced an aromatic blast of eucalyptus when the door was open. That’s why dry and fresh bay leaves produce different flavours: fresh leaves produce a much harsher flavour due to the eucalyptus taste while dried produce a subtler effect.
Another six sessions at 30 seconds each didn’t quite do the job so I decided on full power for the next thirty.
That’s what the browning is on the tips of the leaves – I managed to overcook them in just half a minute. There’s a moral about patience in that story. Despite this they still helped make a great stock (more of that later).