Salty Liquorice graphics with a salt shaker depicting Salmiak Liquorice or Salmiakki

Salty Liquorice; Happy you found it?

Salty or Salt Liquorice is unavoidable in 2021. No longer just the reserve of Nordic Liquorice fanatics, so is it time we embraced the disparate taste and just got on with it?

Salty Liquorice Daarling

Salty Liquorice was a hot topic on TV last year when Nigella Lawson revealed her excellent Liquorice box! A dark and substantial item; brimming with an array of tasty and perhaps challenging; liquorice treats.

Not only is Nigella a Liquorice fan, but she loves the contradictory tastes of sweet and salt, that is, in our experience, an acquired taste.

Inspired by Nigella’s revelation, I’m led to ask the question that haunts me so often: Why is Salmiak, or Salt Liquorice so popular in Scandanavia, yet little known in the U.K?

Salty liquorice Nordic Noir

When I say Scandanavia, I’m cheekily rounding up a couple of extra countries too! And referring to the seven serious Liquorice loving countries: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, the Netherlands and Germany (in its North). When I’m referring to salty Liquorice, you should know it’s not the salt you put on your chips; this is Sal Ammoniac or Ammonium chloride.

Although it’s not clear when these flavours were first put together, by the 1930’s Salmiakki cough pastilles were part of life in the high streets of those Salty Seven countries. The flavour combination appealed.

In Finland, Liquorice production has produced both the sweet and salty (Salmiakki) varieties for a long time. However, in the North of the country, an old established business still makes from an “open batch method.” This semi-automated process allows an artisan approach to the making of confectionery. Since cooking, Liquorice originated as an artisan process. Like all cooking, variation is often a necessity that allows creative magic to happen.

Salmiakki or Salmiak Liquorice

salty liquorice apothercaries matt briney 0tfz7ZoXaWc unsplash

Salmiakki is soft Liquorice with ammonium chloride added to give it its distinctive saltiness. More ammonium chloride means stronger, saltier and more potent Salmiakki. This confectionery was thought to have originated in pharmacies that manufactured their own cough medicine. Ammonium chloride – known for being able to break down mucus – was added to the mixture.

Why do Scandinavians like salty licorice?

My mother was Norwegian. Her sister Eldfrida had a persistent cough, and I remember when, as boys, my brother and I would visit her with my mum. She’d only find relief after taking her Liquorice cough lozenges. They came in a little tin and called Tyrkisk Peber salty liquorice. Not surprisingly, we were fascinated with them. But when we did manage to sneak one into our mouths, our reaction was anything but enthralled. And in my professional capacity as a Liquorice seller, I’ve seen countless people grimace, coughing, looking for the nearest bin to deposit their taster. That Salt Liquorice is an acquired taste is an understatement to the Sweet Liquorice loving average Brit.

But we know that Liquorice Roots have exceptional health properties and have been used since the earliest times. Liquorice root Sticks are our go-to remedy for any coughs and colds in our household. And it works. Glycyrrhizin, a significant component of Liquorice, is useful in the treatment of inflammatory respiratory diseases. In addition, studies reveal Glycyrrhizin inhibits mucus hyperproduction. Apothecaries though time, have used Liquorice for cough and cold therapies.

So by induction, adding Ammonium chloride would bolster the mucus inhibiting effects of the medicine, would it not? And invent a new confectionery Salmiak Liquorice. But how do we, as a nation of Sweet Liquorice fans, take to this Nordic idea of taste? 

Salty Liquorice for Brits? 

In our experience, generally, folks express either love of Liquorice or they loath it. The distinctive taste polarises opinion, just like Marmite, who use the slogan “Love it or hate it” in marketing. It is so ingrained in our culture, we use the term as a metaphor for likes or dislikes. 

So how much more polarised does Salt Liquorice make us fans of the black stuff, plenty I can tell you. Saint Valentines were one of the first to sell this variety when we started back in 1994. Some customers thought we were playing a trick on them if they sampled it. Dislike, or as the metaphor states, “hate” has many forms of verbal expression, too negative to mention here. But since then, Salt Liquorice has grown in prominence with the growth of imported Dutch Salty Liquorice & Swedish Salty Liquorice. 

This summer, we saw record sales of Salt Liquorice, including the Double and Triple Dutch Salt Liquorice varieties we now stock at Latitude, Beautiful Days and End of the Road Festivals. So perhaps being happy, relaxing with a beer and friends and sharing a Salty Liquorice treat is part of our cultural landscape, not just the Scandinavians. 

Double Salty or Salt Liquorice Triangle

Double Salt Triangles

Liquorice fans don’t have a monopoly on happiness, of course.
But we still love to see your passion for life and all things Liquorice.

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