Liquorice or licorice is the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra from which a sweet flavour can be extracted. The licorice plant is a legume (related to beans and peas) that is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. It is not related to Anise, Star Anise, or Fennel, which are the sources of similar flavouring compounds.
The flavor of licorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole – an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in licorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound between 30 and 50 times sweeter than sucrose.
Today, licorice extract is produced by boiling licorice root and subsequently evaporating most of the water. In fact, the name ‘liquorice’/’licorice’ is derived (via the Old French licoresse), from the Ancient Greek glukurrhiza, meaning ‘sweet root’. Licorice extract is traded both in solid and syrup form.
Licorice flavour is found in a wide variety of licorice candies. The most popular in the United Kingdom are liquorice allsorts. In continental Europe, however, far stronger, saltier candies are preferred. In most of these candies the taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, and the actual content of licorice is very low.
In the Netherlands, where licorice candy (“drop”) is one of the most popular forms of sweet, only a few of the many forms that are sold contain aniseed (although mixing it with mint, menthol or with laurel is popular, and mixing it with ammonium chloride creates the very popular salty liquorice known in Dutch as zoute drop.)
Pontefract in Yorkshire was the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the same way it is in the modern day. Pontefract Cakes were originally made there. In Yorkshire and Lancashire it is colloquially known as Spanish, supposedly because Spanish monks grew liquorice root at Rievaulx Abbey near Thirsk.
Licorice is popular in Italy (particularly in the South) and Spain in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed and chewed as a mouth freshener. Throughout Italy unsweetened licorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure licorice extract; the taste is bitter and intense.
Chinese cuisine uses licorice as a culinary spice for savoury foods. It is often employed to flavour broths and foods simmered in soy sauce.
Licorice root can have either a salty or sweet taste. The thin sticks are usually quite salty and sometimes taste like salmiak (salty liquorice), whereas the thick sticks are usually quite sweet, with a salty undertone.
|Bullets||Liquorice Allsorts||Aniseed Rings||Choo Choo Bars|