Licorice is an acquired taste for some, but I’ve always loved it. When I was a kid, I used to beg my uncle who had these hard licorice drops – with a black and white striped wrappers dotted with black hearts and spades.
“You like licorice, right?” my husband said, on our recent trip to Germany, pointing to an outdoor candy stand. Munster has a huge farmer’s market with all sorts of treats, and we soon zeroed in on a Dutch candy stand with hundreds of coin-sized pieces of licorice, divided into two sections: salty and sweet.
Very soft to hard and even in the shape and texture of gumballs, faces, shoes, turtles, and spiders, these licorices come in a multitude of shapes and the only difference I could see at first was that some of the shapes were a little more unique.
Salmiak or salmiakki, the salty version that we don’t produce here is very different however – we’re not talking “Good and Plenty” people! The salty flavor comes from Ammonium chloride or ammonia salt, but to me it tastes very much like any other salty snack. I nibbled on one piece, mixed sweet and salt, it was a rock show happening in my mouth.
Ok, so what about the dreaded double salt, I mean how salty is it really? One piece was so strong it can be a jolt – when I bit into it, I actually had to pull it out of my molars with a tissue and rinse my tongue. So in the future, I’ll avoid those “double salt” pieces.
But as a way to curb a rampant sweet tooth, licorice chews are one of those candies that can be a delicious low fat and low sugar treat to have when you’re watching calories. While it’s difficult to find the salty licorice here, there are plenty of healthy versions of sweet licorice chews that are soft, tasty, and also have added herbs – I like the Panda brand.
Used in Chinese herbal medicine and many folk remedies, licorice is currently being studied for its active ingredients in cancer research. But if you are on serious medication or suffer from heart disease, blood pressure issues, or diabetes doctors advise avoiding any licorice at all since it may interact with drugs or increase blood pressure.