I've been sitting on this post - not literally - for quite some time; life kept getting in the way. But finally, I can tell you all about my experiments with a liqueur made from the seeds of the bay tree.
In my part of the world, the bay trees (Lauris nobilis, not the Californian bay) drop large numbers of seeds around March/April every year. 'Fresh' ones look like this:
and if left to their own devices for a few days, lose their skins and end up like this:
Last year I started this topic asking if anyone had heard of culinary uses for the seeds and received a few good replies. At around the same time I started distilling my own alcohol and was looking for interesting things to make with the output. On my favourite distillers' site I found this page where, if you scroll down a little, you'll find a very basic recipe for Liqueur de Laurier - bay liqueur made with the seeds. Trouble is, the recipe consists of nothing more than a list of ingredients, with no instructions about what state the seeds should be in - with skins or without, whole or bashed or grated - or how long to soak them in the alcohol. Experimentation was called for.
I started with the specified litre of 50% spirit, 100 grams of seeds (I went with the ones without skins), a whole nutmeg (the recipe specifies 4 grams but doesn't say anything about grating) and a clove. The seeds released a certain quantity of air bubbles:
That settled down after a while and I sealed the jar and put it away in the pantry. Now the hard part - how long to leave it?
Over the next few weeks the mixture started developing a subtle gold/brown colour, but stayed clear rather than cloudy. This seemed to me to be a good thing. It also began to small, albeit faintly, of bay (the seeds themselves do have the smell, but nowhere near as strongly as the leaves).
After six weeks I decided to pull it out, sweeten and dilute it and bottle it. And here it is:
I'm pleased to report complete success. The final product is around 25% alcohol, lower than some of the things I've made which, although good, are distinctly 'grown up'. It's very pleasant to drink on its own as a digestif ( a bit of ice is good with it) and, slightly to my surprise, I've found it substitutes very well in cocktails requiring yellow Chartreuse - like this one, which I highly recommend.
I'll certainly be making this again. Given how well it turned out I'm reluctant to change anything, but I'm also slightly tempted to see what breaking up the seeds and/or grating the nutmeg would do. We'll see ...