Some of the favourite sweets with our customers include Black Jacks, Lions Midget Gems, Bassetti Hard Liquorice Sticks, Liquorice Flyers, Sherbet Fountains, Liquorice Torpedoes, Blackcurrant and Liquorice, Liquorice Wheels, Taveners Liquorice Comfits, Lions Liquorice Gums, Taveners Black and White Mints, Sugar Free Liquorice Toffees... the list goes on and on!
Just have a look below at these liquorice sweets... bet they make your mouth water!!
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Did you know that liquorice is the root of a plant called Glycyrrhiza glabra? It is a herbaceous perennial legume native to parts of Asia, such as India, and southern Europe . It is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavouring compounds (aniseed).
In many countries in Europe (including the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries) strong tasting salted liquorice is a firm favourite.
In the Second World War (in times of rationing), liquorice root was used as a toothbrush. In Italy, France and Spain it is still popular in it's natural form - the root being dug up, washed and dried. It makes a good breath freshener in that format.
In Northern England (particularly Lancashire and Yorkshire) liquorice is frequently referred to as "Spanish", though the exact reason is uncertain.
Though liquorice originated in Southern Asia, it was first grown (and mixed with sugar to make sweets) in a monastery in Pontefract in Yorkshire (where many liquorice sweets are still made today). Hence the old favourite liquorice sweets: Pontefract Cakes.
Origins Of Liquorice
Liquorice is a tantalising sweet treat that the English have been enjoying for more than a century. How it got to Britain remains a mystery even today, although some believe that it was brought by either the Roman crusaders returning from their campaigns, or the Dominican monks who settled near the castle at Pontefract Priory during the 14th century. Either way, we should be thanking them – because liquorice is amazing, versatile, and can be traced way back through history.
Liquorice was enjoyed by the Pharaohs and even Roman Emperors like Alexander the Great. They chewed on liquorice root to quench their thirst. It was also favoured by Assyrian kings, while historians believe that Cleopatra used it as a means to preserve her beauty. You’ll see liquorice almost anywhere you look in history!
Believe it or not, liquorice was used in medicine for thousands of years before it became one of Britain’s oldest sweets. It originated in South East Asia before becoming renowned in the Middle East, and later on in Europe. The fact that it has travelled so far shows just how special it is.
What Is Liquorice?
Liquorice is one of Britain’s oldest sweets and you’re bound to be familiar with it, but have you ever wondered what liquorice is made of or where it comes from? It is distinguished by its black colour and is typically flavoured with liquorice root extracts. It is known as ‘liquorice’ to the Brits, while Americans spell it ‘licorice.’ The word ‘liquorice’ comes from the Greek word ‘glukurrhiza,’ which means sweet root.
Surprisingly, the liquorice plant, also known as Glycyrrhiza glabra, is related to peas. It resembles a small acacia shrub, has purple and blue flowers, and grows about five feet tall. It grows best in well-drained soils with full sun. It is typically harvested during the autumn, 2-3 years after being planted. The shrub arrived in England in the early 1200s.
The liquorice root is soft, flexible, fibrous, and contains anethole and glycyrrhizin – a sweet-tasting compound which sets it apart and gives liquorice that delicious moreishness. Glycyrrhizin is one of the sweetest ingredients known to humans, thought to be fifty times sweeter than sugar, making it a perfect ingredient for candies and sweets.
Liquorice Sweets Across The Globe
Liquorice is popular across the whole world in many different forms. The first liquorice sweets in the United Kingdom were made by a chemist, George Dunhill. He reputedly added sugar to a medicinal liquorice concoction, leading to the discovery of the great Pontefract cakes.
Pontefract cakes were also known as Yorkshire Pennies due to their shape and origin. In 1885, ten companies began producing Pontefract liquorice, spreading this wonderful treat across the country.
Later on, confectioners started getting inventive and creating liquorice candy in various shapes and sizes. This led to the introduction of a myriad of sweet novelties such as Liquorice Pipes, Liquorice Laces, Catherine Wheels, and many more. Many a child – and adult – has enjoyed the novelty of having edible laces to satisfy a sugar craving.
In 1842, George Bassett established himself as the foremost confectioner in England, by founding Bassett’s in Sheffield. Bassett’s went on to produce liquorice allsorts (or ‘licorice allsorts’) after his death. Chips, Rocks, and Buttons are a few of Bassett’s other liquorices.
Bassett’s liquorice allsorts are the most popular liquorice sweets in the UK, while continental Europe prefers liquorice sweets of the stronger and saltier variety. ‘Licorice drops’ are a liquorice candy that is renowned throughout the Netherlands. They are infused with aniseed, which keeps the liquorice content relatively low. Some people also prefer liquorice mixed with laurel or mint. It’s a wonderfully versatile sweet and can be adapted to please anyone.
Particularly prolific liquorice-lovers are the Dutch, who are still selling zoethout – plain liquorice sticks – and their zoute drop, a satisfyingly salty liquorice, made from a mixture of liquorice and ammonium chloride. Meanwhile, Italy consumes bitter and intense pieces of unsweetened liquorice candy with great delight.
Liquorice in Spanish is devoured in its natural form; liquorice roots are used as a mouth freshener. It’s likely that some of you remember those plain liquorice sticks sold in your local sweet shop during the 1950s – perfect to chew on during hot days when nothing seems to quench your thirst.
Black liquorice is commonly manufactured in North America. It is another black candy – as the name suggests – and it’s not flavoured. It contains liquorice extract, a binder and, of course, sugar. People who are 40 and above, with underlying medical conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, are advised to avoid eating too much black liquorice, as eating more than 57g of black liquorice for 2 weeks could lead to health problems.
Other countries also have a product known as ‘red liquorice.’ It is candy that looks like liquorice sticks, but it’s made with different flavourings, such as cinnamon, cherry, raspberry, mango, strawberry, and apple. It does not even have to have any flavour of liquorice to gain the name; you can buy strawberry liquorice that has no liquorice extract in it! That doesn’t make it any less tasty as candies go, but does show the wonderful quirks of language.
Barratt Hard Liquorice Sticks are a real British classic that used to be known as Bassetti. They’re a firm favourite for hardcore liquorice-lovers, and are shiny black liquorice sticks that glint enticingly on the shelves.
Liquorice isn’t only used as a flavouring in sweets, but also in herbal teas and soft drinks. Calabria even has a popular liqueur made from 100% pure liquorice extract. You really seem to be able to do pretty much anything with it!
How Can You Soften Liquorice?
Like any soft candy, liquorice can become hard and inedible if left in the open air. Liquorice can be softened after becoming stale by applying heat to the candy, but you can only do this once, or it might get even harder.
Taffy and gummy bears that have gone stale can also be softened using either of the following methods:
1. Place your sweet inside a sealable plastic bag and squeeze the air out of the bag prior to sealing. Place it in a bowl of warm water. It should begin to soften in around 10-15 minutes.
2. Put your liquorice in the microwave with a paper towel around the sweets. Be careful not to microwave it for too long as the sweets will melt if they get too hot.
With that in mind, do you know how liquorice is made in the first place?
How Is Liquorice Made?
Liquorice sweets can be made in two different ways. Small liquorice manufacturers use the cornstarch moulding process, where hot liquid liquorice is poured into individual moulds. As soon as it cools down, the moulds are turned. Lo and behold, you have sweets that are ready to be packaged and shipped out – so that’s how they get such amazing and intricate shapes! And doesn’t liquid liquorice sound delicious?
Big liquorice manufacturers make use of extruder machines to create a variety of liquorice sweets. They boil liquid liquorice with colours and flavours until it forms a thick, dough-like consistency, and then they shape it.
Owing to its various uses, you might think of liquorice as a wonder plant. From being an active ingredient in today’s sweets down to its medicinal properties stretching back generations – and many people today still notice it helps soothe a tickly throat and a cough. You might be wondering, ‘is liquorice good for you?’
Due to its countless properties, liquorice has been revered by Greek philosophers, medical experts, war heroes, and Buddhist monks, as well as many others. Liquorice contains 300 compounds, some of which are known for antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
The Ancient Greeks, Romans, Hindus and the Chinese used liquorice to cure a variety of illnesses. Often called upon to treat common colds, liquorice is usually found in cough syrups, since it is also an expectorant (it helps you cough up mucus – ew, right?). It can also mask the unusual flavours of typical cough syrup ingredients, making them more palatable. For anyone with children, this is particularly appreciated.
Other cultures use it to treat stomach ulcers, cirrhosis, and herpes. Some clinical studies investigating liquorice benefits have had promising results:
A randomized, double-blind study showed that flavonoid extracts that contain glabridin and glabrene (which are present in liquorice root) are effective at relieving stomach discomfort. The extract significantly reduced heartburn, stomach pain, and nausea.
Getting infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacteria can cause peptic ulcers. Information obtained from a clinical trial of 120 people shows that the addition of liquorice extract in standard treatment could help eradicate the H. Pylori bacteria.
SKIN INFECTION AND INFLAMMATION
Information from the British Skin Foundation showed that 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from eczema, a skin condition that causes itching, scaling, inflammation, and redness. A study in Iran conducted by Shahid Behesti University in 2010 found that extract of the leaves and roots of liquorice helped fight skin infections caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Traditionally, liquorice has been used for soothing sore throats. In an Egyptian study conducted in 2016, liquorice gargle was given to people prior to operations. Results showed that liquorice gargle is effective in treating post-operational sore throats.
Glycyrrhizin, the compound found in liquorice root, can aid the treatment of Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver, causing inflammation and long-term liver damage.
Medical professionals in Japan use glycyrrhizin injectables to treat those with chronic hepatitis C, and laboratory results suggest that it might be helpful.
Liquorice is known to have phytoestrogenic compounds, which can help in correcting hormonal imbalances in the body to ease menopausal symptoms such as depression, sweating, mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, and more. The Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research has published a study that highlights the positive effects of liquorice on menopausal hot flashes.
Using liquorice moderately is believed to boost immunity and helps produce lymphocytes and macrophages, which protect the body from microbes, allergens, and pollutants causing autoimmune diseases.
With these amazing benefits, you might be tempted to consume liquorice in huge quantities. Bear in mind the old proverb: ‘Too much of anything is good for nothing.’
How Else Is Liquorice Used?
If you’re feeling nauseous, all you need to do is boil liquorice root to make tea. Liquorice tea is also good for your teeth, so you can try gargling with cooled liquorice tea as well. Is there anything this plant root can’t do?
In other countries, liquorice is used to flavour tobacco. It lends tobacco products a naturally sweet taste that blends beautifully with other flavours of the tobacco plant. It seems like we just can’t get enough of liquorice!
Is Liquorice Vegan?
For vegetarian/vegan sweet-lovers, you might wonder if liquorice is vegan. Well, it is important to note that liquorice is often made with gelatine. The gelatine is made from animal products, so not all liquorice is vegetarian/vegan. Always double-check packets before tucking in.
Fortunately, Taveners has created a classic British sweet that liquorice-lovers just have to try. It comes in capsules of colourful, hard candy shells with liquorice cores. Liquorice Comfits are vegetarian but not vegan (they have a shellac coating but no gelatine), and they contain no artificial colours or flavouring. They’re also known as the mini version of Liquorice Torpedoes – and if that doesn’t sound both cool and cute, what does?
Pontefract Liquorice Festival
Just how passionate are people about liquorice? Well, Pontefract celebrates its significant role in England’s love affair with liquorice through their annual Liquorice Festival, held every July. Liquorice-lovers will delight in the haven of delicacies and activities devoted to these traditional UK sweets.
Liquorice-based designs are part of the annual festival. Some years feature quirky liquorice-lined footwear and creative liquorice jewellery-making events. For those who aren’t into candy fashion, you can go ahead and travel on the Liquorice Land Train going to Pontefract Castle.
Tried and tested liquorice-lovers mustn’t miss out on the vast selection of classic liquorice allsorts treats on offer!
Liquorice-lovers will be thrilled by the personalised liquorice gifts, which contain classic liquorice sweets in abundance. These include a variety of sweets such as Liquorice Allsorts, Liquorice-Flavoured Toffee, Liquorice Creams, Pontefract Cakes, Liquorice Strawberries, Jelly Buttons, and many more.
This is a perfect treat for your loved ones on any occasion – whether it is Valentine’s or Christmas, a birthday, or an anniversary. Liquorice has a place at any time!
From its history in ancient medicine to its addition as an ingredient in sweetening cakes, down to the liquorice sweets we are so fond of today, the origins of liquorice and liquorice candy will truly fascinate you, and are a testament of how amazing this plant really is. Now that you know the full story, go ahead and indulge in a piece of delicious gluten free liquorice today!
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