Spices: Thyme and Bay Leaf
Spices have always been known to impart flavor to food. Here are some valuable information on your favorite spices in your spice cabinet.
Thyme is the dried leaf of Thymus vulgaris, a small perennial of the mint family. The leaves measure about one quarter of an inch in width. The plant grows about eighteen inches tall and produces small flowers that are very attractive to honey bees.
Did you know?
Thyme dates back to ancient Greece, where it symbolized courage. Roman soldiers bathed in water infused with thyme to gain vigor, courage and strength. In the Middle Ages, ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on the scarves of knights for bravery.
Most thyme is imported from Spain. Although French thyme is recognized as being of higher quality than the Spanish variety, only limited quantities are grown each year.
Traditional British dishes are often flavored with thyme, especially with fatty cuts of meat or rich game. Add thyme to Irish stew, faggots, liver and onions, oxtail, boiled bacon, steak and kidney and Lancanshire hotpot.
- The strong fresh flavor of thyme blends well with other herbs without overpowering them. It is one of the ingredients in bouquet garni.
- Thyme’s aromatic flavor adds warmth and pungency to a very wide variety of dishes such as stuffing, marinades, vegetables, fish and cheese. It is an essential flavoring in many classic dishes for meat, game and poultry.
- Great for herbed rice and tossed through pasta.
- Stir 2-3 teaspoon thyme leaves through casseroles and stews.
- Add to pumpkin, chicken or vegetable soups.
Bay leaves or Laurel, are the dried leaves of the evergreen tree, Laurus nobilis. The elliptically shaped leaves are light green in color and brittle when dried. They have a distinctively strong, aromatic, spicy flavor. Bay leaves is the approved term of this spice, but the name “laurel” is still seen frequently.
Did you know?
In ancient Greece and Rome, bay leaves and branchlets were used as wreath to crown their victors. Champions of the Olympic games wore garlands of bay leaves. Our word “baccalaureate” means “laurel berries” and signifies the successful completion of one’s studies. It alludes to the bay wreaths worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in Ancient Greece.
Bay leaves are native to the Mediterranean area. Turkey produces fine bay leaves.
Used in soups, stews, stocks, pickles, marinades, tomato dishes and meats. Mediterranean, French , Moroccan and Turkish cuisines use bay leaves in spice blends such as bouquet garni and curry blends.
Usage ideas / directions…
- Add 1 leaf to water when stewing 1 kilo of chicken. Flavor increases upon standing so remove from food after cooking.
- Add to the liquid when preparing pot roast or stew made from beef, lamb or venison.
- Use in vegetable soup, fish or seafood chowders, and tomato soup.
- Add to liquid when steaming or poaching fish or shellfish.
- Use in marinades for chicken, beef, lamb and veal.
- Use to make pickled beets.
- Add to French or herb salad dressing and let stand for several hours for flavor to develop.
- Use when preparing barbeque of spaghetti sauce.