Laurel

Add a touch of Greek myth to your plate

Grecian laurel (bay laurel) is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub, native to the Mediterranean region.

Laurel’s leaves have the shape of lance, dark green color, strong aroma and a bitter taste. Its flowers are small, yellow and unisexual, and grow in small clusters. Laurel is blooming during the spring and contains essential oils which can be used to produce pesticides.

Except as a stimulant in veterinary practice the leaves and fruit are very rarely used as food. In massage therapy, the essential oil of bay laurel is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism, while in aromatherapy, it is used to treat earaches and high blood pressure. The volatile oil is sometimes used in perfumery and the wood is sweet-scented, and therefore is used for marqueterie work.

The plant is the source of several popular spices used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines and it is the source of the bay leaf used in cooking. It can be ingested safely and is often used in soups and stocks, as well as being a common addition to the Bloody Mary cocktail.

According to Greek mythology, the laurel tree was first formed when the nymph Daphne was transformed to a laurel tree, in order to hide herself from Apollo, who was after her. Daphne is the Greek name for the tree. In ancient Greece, Grecian laurel was used to fashion the laurel wreath, a symbol of highest status awarded to victors, both in athletic competitions and in poetic meets.

In Greek cuisine laurel leafs or Dafnofila are used in soups and stews and match well with lentils, octopus, rabbit and giant beans. 

MLGFB Tip:

How to make your own laurel liqueur:

Ingredients: 25 laurel leafs, 500 ml tsipouro (preferably made by organic grapes)

For the syrup: 400 γρ. sugar, 500 ml water

Phase 1:

  • Wash the laurel leafs and let them dry on a cotton towel
  • Then put the leafs inside a big jar and add the tsipouro. Close the jar and store it on a cool, dark place for a month.

As a precaution, put a sticker on it, so as to not forget the opening date.

Phase 2:

After a month we prepare the syrup.

  • Boil water and sugar together, stir for about 5 minutes and then let it cool.
  • When cool, put the mixture in the jar with the leafs and the tsipouro, seal it and let it rest in the same spot for 20 days. (a new sticker would be handy)

Phase 3:

  • After 20 days, use a double, paper, coffee filter to infiltrate the liqueur and let it another 3 months to rest in the same jar, in the same spot.

After that period, all of you who appreciate the distinctive aroma of laurel will be able to enjoy a warm spirit for the cold days of winter.

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