Recently when making a 5-bean-stew "kit" my son finely crushed up the bay leaves and added them to the other spices, rather than adding them whole to be removed after cooking.

When I pointed out his error, he asked me why bay leaves were different than the other spices.

NOTE: I have read the answers to this question and they all address the risk of not removing a whole bay leaf but not why you couldn't just grind it up.)

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    I thought it was because bay leaves are very bitter – aris Nov 17 at 4:03

Dried bay is sometimes left in, for example this herb mix from Schwartz includes bay leaves (at less than 3%).

Dried they can easily be crushed and added as a powder, but you don't often want a lot of dried bay as the flavour can be quite overpowering.

I only use fresh bay as I have a plant outside the kitchen door and it's evergreen. Fresh, I have been known to get them fine enough to leave them in, but it's much less effort to just use them whole, perhaps slightly folded or torn (without tearing them into pieces). To leave them in you really need to make a paste or of them, using a blender/food processor (except you generally wouldn't be using enough for them to blend well). Pieces of fresh bay leaf are rather tough and prone to getting stuck in teeth, but fresh bay has a better flavour than dried.

Unlike many herbs, you don't have to put in any extra effort to prepare them for removal - they're tough and obvious, so no tying sprigs or little bags.

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    I can think of other ingredients used this way, too--for example, whole cinnamon would be added and then removed (where ground cinnamon would simply be added), or fresh mint leaves in a tea would be added and then either removed or left as a non-consumed garnish. – user3067860 Nov 16 at 23:16
  • Also juniper berries, vanilla fruits, cloves. There's also a gray zone of spices that are not disturbing enough to warrant picking them out (I'm thinking of sage leaves). Also when boiling meat, the broth is sometimes put through a sieve to get the herbs out (we've also put the herbs into a tea bag). All in all, I don't think it all that unusual to remove spices once they gave off their flavor. – cbeleites Nov 17 at 14:43
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    @ChrisH: yes, we also distinguish between powdered and whole cloves (also for vanilla: whole fruits are taken out, otherwise, you can scrape the marrow and that stays in). Also, the picking service is usually not provided ;-) - everyone has to do that themselves (similar for bay leaves and juniper berries) unless we're talking very festive dinners. Taking out whole cloves if it is not everyone doing this on their own plate is often easily possible by sieve or keeping them in a tea bag from the beginning, say, for mulled wine. – cbeleites Nov 17 at 15:24
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    Bay is a great plant to grow. It's hardy, needs no maintenance, looks attractive and you can cook with it! I agree fresh is a much nicer flavor too. – GdD Nov 17 at 19:25
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    @EssKay that's what I'd call "not a lot". I've done the same with seasoning mix for poatto wedges, which is how I know it only works with dried. – Chris H Nov 19 at 11:36

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