What is licorice?
Licorice is a sweet black candy which is popular in the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Licorice is made of the liquorice extract (derived from the roots of the licorice plant), sugar and wheat flour, though the wheat flour can also be replaced with options such as spelt or oat flour. Licorice can also contain additional ingredients such as anise extract, gum arabic, beeswax, ammonium chloride and molasses.
Licorice contains very little fat which is why it is popular among weightwatchers. The licorice root extract contains glycyrrhizin which has certain pharmaceutical properties. Glycyrrhizin helps to remove mucus from the lungs which is why it is often used in cough syrups. Licorice also acts as a laxative when consumed in large quantities. Licorice consumption is recommended to keep moderate also because glycyrrhizin can also increase blood pressure and decrease potassium levels when consumed in large quantities.
What is salty licorice?
Salty licorice is an essential part of our cultural heritage in Finland. We add salty licorice to our ice cream, yoghurt, chewing gums and even to our alcoholic drinks. Salty licorice is also popular in other Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Germany, but other than that the rest of the world is pretty much oblivious to this obsession with the intense black candy.
Salty licorice is actually licorice in which ammonium chloride has been added. Ammonium chloride gives the salty licorice its strong and salty flavor. Instead of candy factories, salty licorice was developed in pharmacies. The pharmacists added ammonium chloride to cough syrups to cover up their unpleasant taste. Due to its good taste, ammonium chloride was begun to be sold as an edible powder which was poured on the hand and licked from there. The questionable hygiene of this method made the pharmacists to develop a solid form of salty licorice which later found its way to candy factories – and the hearts of the Finns. Nowadays salty licorice is available as hard or soft candies and as powder.