Bay leaves are hardy, and can last up to several months in your refrigerator crisper wrapped in an air-filled plastic bag.
For long term storage of bay leaves (at the expense of some of their potency and complexity of flavor) we recommend drying them. Hanging them to air-dry is the preferred method, although in a pinch you can also use a warm oven. Store dried bay leaves in an air-tight container in a dark, dry cupboard for up to a year.
While you can use more fresh bay leaves than dried without making your food bitter, if converting a recipe from “bay leaves” (usually Mediterranean) to fresh California bay leaves, use half as much. Just before using, crush & bend fresh bay leaves with your hands to allow them to release more of their flavor.
Do not leave bay leaves in finished dishes to be consumed, but instead fish them out prior to serving. Try to keep them in large pieces or wrap them in cheesecloth/muslin or a tea infuser for easy removal.
Flavors commonly paired with bay leaves include meat, poultry, artichokes, beets, fish and tomatoes.
Fresh bay leaves can be used as you would dry leaves in soups, stocks, braises, poaching liquids, stews or other wet cooking method dishes. However, they also offer broader culinary possibilities, such as inserting under the skin of poultry and game birds
prior to roasting, or imbedding them in slits cut into roasts (pork, wild boar
, lamb or veal
Try adding them to your pot of rice
(see Cooking Rice Using the Pilaf Method
), lentils, or heirloom beans
the next time you cook some.
You can even use them to flavor simple syrups
, liquors, or desserts (try steeping them in custard bases).