No one would ever mistake the cabin for the Mediterranean. But they do have something in common: the proliferation of bay trees.
Bay trees, otherwise known as Bay Laurel or Laurus nobilis dominate the landscape around the cabin. Branches of the shiny green leaves frame our kitchen window, line the driveway and grow over the paths. The trees' pungent aroma punctuates the air with a heady, earthy scent—that to me is the scent of the cabin.
I love the cabin's bay trees. And because I love them I bring bay home by the car-full every time we go to the cabin. I’ve even brought home entire trees before, I love it that much.
At the cabin, we've also used the branches in the linen closet to mask the musty smell of the closed space. I've tucked them into our napkins on the dinner table. And I dream about spending a weekend crafting wreaths with the branches.
At home, I dry the leaves; sometimes individually, sometimes still on the branch. Then I give jars full of leaves to friends, add the leaves to all kinds of dishes and crumble the leaves by the handful to make rubs for tritip steaks, chickens and turkeys.
I also spend a lot of time looking for new uses. Last weekend I found one as I searched for a preserved lemon recipe. That and a few other discoveries I've made are listed below.
Julia Moskin's riff on Paula Wolfert’s recipe for preserved lemons includes bay and peppercorns—an unbeatable combination of beauty and flavor.
Heidi Swanson’s interpretation of David Lebovitz’s bay-scented cake is heavenly.
Sadly, not everyone loves bay leaves as much as I do. In this article, Kelly Conaboy questions chefs about the flavor bay imparts in food only to make the arguement that it's tradition that keeps chefs using bay.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt takes the opposite approach in a Serious Eats Ask the Food Lab article and offers advice on storing and using bay in this article.
Luckily, other people, like Michael Mosca don’t worry about the flavor of bay, and instead make beautiful garlands with the dark glossy leaves.
No matter what form bay leaves are used, I’m always excited to see someone else appreciate my favorite tree.