In the Nordic countries no other ingredient, no other treat is as coveted, or as used as the liquorice.
Often vilified in other countries, it’s the favourite of nearly all children and certainly of most adults.
The word liquorice comes from the Greek Glykys (sweet) and Rhiza (root). The sweet root that is liquorice is in fact much sweeter than sugar which is what makes this plant so good as a sweetener in candies or teas.
Where does it come from?
It is the root of a bush, which when dug up can be several metres long. The root most often grows in places with a warmer climate such as the Middle East. It does not appreciate more northern climates and tends to object when the ground freezes. Most attempts to grow the plant in Scandinavia have failed.
Liquorice probably originally came to the north with returning crusaders and was used as a medical plant. Thought to cure everything from bad breath to bad feet, however, following the natural law that nothing delicious is ever good for you, the actual benefits of the plant are doubtful.
One benefit it does have is to increase 10 fold the feeling of Hygge on a cold night when eaten at home as a candy, or just chewed as a stick on a hot summer’s day. Seeing as how the Nordic countries are some of the biggest consumers of sweets in the world, it’s probably not surprising that liquorice makes up a large amount of this consumption. However, it may be surprising that while the Nordic peoples love their treats, they actually prefer them less sweet than in many other countries. Chocolate is most often on the bitter side and liquorice is nothing without salt!
The most normal type of salt used in liquorice is not “regular” salt, but Ammoniumchloride (NH4CI) has the Latin name Sal Ammoniacum which in common parlance has been changed to Salmiak, or in Finnish Salmiakki. Indeed it was the Finnish candy company Fazer who first trademarked the name and released the first lozenge shaped Salmiakki candy which trickled out to the other countries like the sweet nectar of the gods.
In the contemporary kitchen the black gold has been embraced as a local delicacy (if still not yet a local produce). There is no other part of the world which has embraced the ingredient to this extent. It is used not just in desserts, candy and teas, but in the salty kitchen as well. Liquorice drinks such as beer and snaps have always been popular, but the bitter notes of the root are particularly good at cutting through the fattier notes in a white sauce, or in the dessert kitchens in white chocolate or ice cream. It can build up a salami, pep up crisps or popcorn, or give a twist to an otherwise dull mustard.
For those who might like a little inspiration click here to find some recipes from our most famous master of all things liquorice Johan Bülow.
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