If you’ve ever been, or go to Norway – you are bound to see an unusually wide variety of salty licorice candy in stores across the country. Norwegians’ love for this not so sweet candy is very strong, and other Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Finland (the Finns refer to it as ‘salmiakki’), share our taste for licorice. In fact, I hear many Scandinavians who move to the United States, complain that some of what they miss the most, is their dear licorice, as if it’s an important food group and vital for their happiness!
The original licorice, made from the licorice root, were used only for medicinal purposes up until the 19th century . It was particularly popular in fighting colds and digestive issues. Traditional Chinese medicine books talk about licorice and it’s also said to be mentioned in Egyptian papyrus rolls found in the grave of Egyptian pharaoh Tuthankamun (1347-1339 B.C).
Today, however, licorice is found in both sweet, salty and spicy versions and is mostly enjoyed as a candy or “sweet”. The English apothecary George Dunhill, was said to have added sugar and other additives to licorice back in 1760 and thus our cravings for licorice started…
Salty licorice is a candy that tastes of licorice and has ammonium chloride added, giving it the salty taste. The more ammonium chloride added, the saltier the candy.
When and how licorice and ammonium chloride were combined to become salt licorice, is unclear, but production in Norway, Finland and Holland can be traced back as early as the mid 1920s.
“Salt lakris” (salty licorice) is definitely an acquired taste – in fact, I believe that Scandinavians probably have a special gene that automatically gets addicted to this flavor. Most Americans I have surveyed for instance, have a strong aversion to the flavor, many even describing it as nasty and gag worthy. Norwegians, however, like it so much we even add licorice flavor to ice cream, cookies and cupcakes, vodka and chocolate. While the majority of Americans admit to having a big sweet tooth, many Norwegians have more affinity for salty foods, which could be part of the explanation here.
*Check out a funny Youtube video of a Canadian trying out Norwegian candy for the first time HERE, licorice powder being the first one. Too funny!)
I have fond (or should I say funny?) memories of getting together with friends and adding the spicy licorice flavored candy “Tyrkisk Peber” (Turkish pepper) to potato vodka growing up (don’t judge me), making our own flavored spiked drinks… Let me tell you, this candy is not for the faint of heart… Most people find it so strong they have to spit it out. Anyway, we must have started a trend, because today vodka companies produce their own Turkish pepper flavored vodka. Somebody shared our love for it!
Norwegians’ taste and demand for licorice is so big, that even luxurious licorice candy stores have begun popping up in the country. LAKRIDS by Johan Bulow is such a store, selling licorice candy that is made with the “best raw ingredients and lots of love”, according to one of their representatives. Their licorice does not contain any coloring agents and they make products such as licorice sticks, licorice marzipan, licorice powder for baking, licorice syrup and licorice mints. These all come in boxes ranging from $12-70.
Or if you fancy a licorice milk shake, add a cup of plant based milk with 4 tbsp of vegan vanilla ice cream and 4 pieces of licorice mints or a tsp of licorice powder. Puree up and enjoy!!
*Note: consumption of licorice is not recommended for pregnant women or people with high blood pressure, because it contains glycyrrhizin.