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Uncovering the Delicious Secrets of Liquorice Sweets

bunch of liquorice sweets

Welcome to the fascinating world of liquorice sweets! It’s a treat millions of people worldwide have enjoyed for centuries. You probably already have your favourite brands and types of liquorice you love most, but have you ever wondered about the origins of this unique flavour?

The definition of confectionery is any food made from sugar, often in combination with other ingredients such as chocolate, nuts, or fruit. Liquorice is extracted from the roots of the liquorice plant, which is native to the Mediterranean and certain parts of Asia. This combination and how it’s used as a flavouring ingredient create some of the most delicious and iconic sweets and treats.

In this article, we will dive deep into the history and production of liquorice sweets and also explore the health benefits of natural Liquorice roots and the cultural significance of this popular confectionery product. So get ready to uncover the delicious secrets of liquorice sweets!

Licorice steeped in vinegar, with honey and cloves. It will give you some strength and clear your head.

Author: George R R Martin

A Brief History of Liquorice Sweets in the UK

Liquorice has been grown in the UK since the 12th century, with the first liquorice roots being brought all the way from Italy. The soft sandy loam soil of Pontefract, a market town in West Yorkshire, was found to be ideal for growing Liquorice, and by the 1700s, it soon became a major centre for the production of the plant. By the 18th century, the town was home to over 70 liquorice growers and the famous Pontefract cakes, a type of Liquorice sweet, were being produced in copious quantities.

It all started, though, with a group of persecuted Benedictine monks making their way to Yorkshire. They brought the perennial herbaceous plant Glycyrrhiza Glabra (the liquorice plant) and the knowledge of its power to heal to our shores for the first time. We extract natural Liquorice or liquorice extract from the roots of the plant. The clever monks made medicinal pastels by mixing the extract of these plants but without adding sugar.

As time went on, tenant farmer families tended the liquorice fields of Pontefract. It must have been a hard life for these subsistence farmers, who regularly grew potatoes amongst the liquorice plants to help make a living. But by the early 1700s, there were up to 50 families involved. Their crops of liquorice root turned to black gold in the hands of the Monks of Pontefract the castle.

As demand grew for the medicinal properties of Yorkshire liquorice, the town elders in Pontefract rented the castle to store the harvested roots. So valuable were they to the local economy. (At the time, physicians used it as a cure-all for everything from stomach ulcers and heartburn to colic, bronchitis, and tuberculosis). And after centuries of making the go-to cure-all tonic of the day, a booming confectionery business was born around 1750. Enter stage left, George Dunhill, a Scottish chemist who claimed he was the first to add sugar to Liquorice.

And with that, George Dunhill invented liquorice confectionery, which would go on to make Britain a global leader in Liquorice sweet manufacture and a significant player in the world of sugar.

The Different Types of Liquorice Sweets

Let’s talk about how liquorice production has changed over time. A female workforce often handmade liquorice sweets like wheels and pipes in the past. However, with the advent of mass production and modern technology, the process has become much more streamlined.

During World War II, sugar rationing dealt a heavy blow to the liquorice industry in Yorkshire. However, some manufacturers were able to adapt to the changing landscape, and new lines of Liquorice started to emerge from factories across Northern Europe.

Today, the most common forms of liquorice production involve modern techniques and machinery. While some manufacturers still make traditional sweets, many now use extrusion to create a wide variety of liquorice shapes and flavours. So, while the days of hand-rolling pipes may be long gone, the liquorice industry continues to thrive with new and innovative production methods.


Extrusion is a food manufacturing process that is commonly used in the production of a variety of food products, including snacks, cereals, and confectionery. The process involves forcing a mixture of ingredients through a die to create a specific shape or form. Extrusion is an efficient and cost-effective method of food production that can produce copious quantities of product quickly and consistently.

In the Italian liquorice confectionery industry, extrusion is a popular method for creating liquorice sweets. The liquorice mixture is first prepared, usually consisting of liquorice extract, sugar, and other flavourings. The mixture is then heated and blended before being extruded through a die to create the desired shape of the Liquorice sweet. The extruded shapes are then cut to size and dried before being packaged and distributed.

The use of extrusion in Liquorice sweet manufacture allows for a wide range of shapes and sizes to be created quickly and consistently. This has led to the development of a variety of liquorice sweets, from traditional twists and sticks to more complex shapes such as animals or characters. The process also allows for incorporating other ingredients, such as fruit or mint, into the liquorice mixture, creating a range of flavour combinations. As a result, extrusion has become an essential part of the liquorice sweet production process and has contributed to the industry’s ability to produce high volumes of products efficiently and cost-effectively.


Moulding is a food manufacturing process that involves pouring a mixture of ingredients into a mould to create a specific shape or form. The mixture is then allowed to cool and set before removing from the mould. Moulding is a standard method of manufacturing many types of confectionery, including liquorice sweets.

The Dutch liquorice confectionery industry has specialised in the moulding process to create a wide variety of liquorice sweets. The process typically involves preparing a mixture of ingredients, including liquorice extract, sugar, and other flavourings, which are then heated and blended. The mixture is then poured into pre-formed moulds, which are usually made of silicone, and allowed to cool and set. Once the liquorice mixture has been set, the moulds are removed, and the liquorice sweets are cut and packaged.

One of the advantages of the moulding process is that it allows for the creation of a wide variety of shapes and sizes of liquorice sweets. The Dutch liquorice confectionery industry has taken advantage of this by creating a range of different shapes and sizes, from traditional coins and blocks to more complex shapes such as animals, letters, and figures. Moulding is a versatile manufacturing process that allows for an important level of customisation and creativity. The Dutch liquorice confectionery industry has used this to create a diverse and innovative range of liquorice sweets.

Liquorice Allsorts

Liquorice Allsorts is a famous confectionery product that is known for its colourful appearance and unique mix of flavours. The English liquorice confectionery industry is credited with inventing Liquorice Allsorts, with George Bassett & Co. being the first company to produce the sweets in 1899. The original mix of Liquorice Allsorts was a combination of a variety of shapes and flavours, which were initially created to use up the company’s leftover liquorice sweets.

Over time, the production of Liquorice Allsorts has become a specialised form of sweet liquorice manufacture in the English liquorice confectionery industry. The sweets are created by extruding a mixture of liquorice extract, sugar, and other flavourings, which are then cut into various shapes and sizes. The shapes are then coloured and flavoured, with each colour representing a different flavour. The final product is a mix of liquorice sweets in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavours, including coconut, aniseed, and fruit flavours. Today, Liquorice Allsorts remain a popular treat in the UK and worldwide, with many manufacturers producing their own versions of the classic sweet.

5 x 7 in

Discover the Sweet World of Saint Valentines Liquorice

Our mission was clear: to reunite liquorice lovers with the flavour they had been missing out on. With a bold vision, Saint Valentine’s embarked on a voyage of discovery, venturing into Italy’s little-known sweet production houses in search of the perfect Liquorice recipe. We combined Italian mastery with Finnish innovation, crafting the Original Italian Liquorice Twists that made us famous. Creamy, classic and totally delicious, these handcrafted treats were a taste sensation – loved by everyone who tried them.

Saint Valentines Artistic Guide to Liquorice

At Saint Valentine’s, we made it our mission to bring the world the absolute best Italian and Finnish Liquorice. Our journey began nearly three decades ago, when we first discovered the delightfully extruded hard Liquorice from Italy. From trading at public events and sampling tasters, we quickly learned what made liquorice lovers tick. They yearned for the nostalgic taste of their childhood, a flavour that seemed to have vanished from the world. But we brought it back with our Original Italian Liquorice Twists, a liquorice worthy of their praise.

We then turned our attention to Finnish Liquorice, a softer, chewier variety with a unique taste. As the first company in the UK to bring this Liquorice to the market, we saw it quickly become a fan favourite. The combination of sweet and salty flavours was something people had never tasted before and loved. As a result, Finnish Liquorice has now become a staple of our range, with a variety of shapes and sizes to suit all tastes.

At Saint Valentine’s Guide to Liquorice Sweets, we believe life is better in the slow lane. When you take the time to savour the flavours and textures of our Liquorice, your senses have more to say, and your body has more to thank you for. We see Liquorice as a passion for people, and our mission is to make that journey creative. To that end, we have started a liquorice poetry competition and authored a literary sweet liquorice guide. Whether you’re a fan of traditional twists or something more modern, our guide is the perfect place to find your favourite liquorice treats.

Soft Liquorice:

A gentle passion for indulgence made with care and dedication. Adopt a slower pace of life with soft Liquorice – a perfect balance of texture and taste that melts melodically on your tongue. Take time to savour its subtle nuances for an entirely new experience.

Hard Liquorice:

Those chasing heady highs can find solace in its bracing bite. A feisty chewiness with an unmistakable hook provides an intense rush that lingers long after your senses have become intoxicated. Try both to explore their unique pleasures – they have much to satisfy those who seek adventure in their sweetness; Barratts& Co has a little history to share.

Liquorice Root Sticks:

These sticks have a mild flavour best appreciated by liquorice connoisseurs. All natural and sweetened with own self, root sticks are often chewed as a stimulant to promote brain health.

Liquorice Gummies:

Juicylicious gummies are perfectly chewable, containing just enough sweetness but not overwhelmingly so. Rich, dark flavour combined with the soft texture make them an absolute hit with adults and children alike – ideal for bringing along on any outdoor adventure!

Liquorice Allsorts:

The classic treat that has stood the test of time is a delightful assortment of shapes, sizes and colours that make them irresistible. Liquorice allsorts boast traditional shapes complemented with vibrant colours, containing multiple textures and tastes derived from rum jelly cubes, coconut rolls and juicy fruit mixers! With a balance of soft and chewy, sweet and salty, Liquorice Allsorts bring joy to any gathering.

Liquorice Candies:

Tiny morsels that pack a punch, these liquorice candies are perfect for those who enjoy their sweets with a bit of attitude. Sharp, intense and with a long-lasting flavour, they are an excellent choice for anyone who loves the thrill of the unexpected.

Liquorice Root is a Wonder of Nature

The mystique that surrounds liquorice root is well deserved. With a long and illustrious history, it has been used for centuries for both medicinal and culinary purposes. However, it is essential to note that just because the root is beneficial does not mean that candy made from Liquorice is healthy.

Candy and Sugar:

The candy industry has taken to using liquorice extract in their products, as it provides a unique flavour that customers adore. But, unfortunately, the excessive amounts of sugar and other additives in candy render the health benefits of liquorice root null and void. Therefore, it is imperative to be cautious when purchasing such products and always to read labels carefully.

Liquorice Root:

The root itself is a powerhouse of natural compounds, containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Liquorice root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments, from digestive to respiratory problems. Its sweet taste is derived from glycyrrhizin, which also has potent antimicrobial properties.

The best advise is not to eat too much at one time- NHS Guidelines

Liquorice Root

A Powerhouse for Health Benefits: From Antioxidants to Anti-inflammation

liquorice root and plant drawing natural liquorice roots

Health Benefits of Liquorice

Liquorice is a plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, with a long history of use in traditional medicine in many cultures. In recent years, scientific research has provided evidence for the health benefits of Liquorice. Here are three key health benefits of Liquorice:

Antioxidant properties

Liquorice contains compounds that act as antioxidants, which help to protect the body against free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease. Studies have shown that these antioxidant properties can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which is associated with various chronic health conditions.

Anti-inflammatory benefits

Liquorice also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Research has shown that Liquorice can reduce inflammation in the body, which may help to prevent and manage these conditions.

Soothing effect on the digestive system

Liquorice has long been used to soothe digestive problems, and research has shown that it can be effective in treating a range of digestive issues, including ulcers, acid reflux, and gastritis. In addition, the compounds in Liquorice have been shown to help reduce inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract and promote the production of mucus, which helps protect the digestive lining. Overall, Liquorice can be a helpful addition to a healthy diet, with its range of health benefits making it a valuable addition to the diet of those looking to support their overall health and wellbeing.

How to Make Your Own Liquorice Sweets at Home

The satisfaction of making one’s own liquorice sweets is unparalleled for the curious and experimental. You can make your favourite sweets at home with some essential tools, the right ingredients, and a pinch of patience. This is an excellent opportunity to exercise your creative muscles while avoiding the additives and preservatives present in commercial sweets. Whether you prefer hard or soft Liquorice, Liquorice Allsorts or gummies, making your own sweet treats is a rewarding experience that you won’t want to miss. So, roll up your sleeves, tie your apron tight and let’s get started.

A simple recipe for soft liquorice sweets

Mixing the necessary ingredients is key for making delicious liquorice sweets. Start with medium-sized black treacle, butter and brown sugar in a pot. Heat until the mixture boils, then reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add liquorice extract and gently mix in enough plain flour until you form a soft dough.
Roll out onto a floured surface to 1cm thick and use cookie cutters to create shapes of your choice. Place the pieces on greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.
To vary the taste, add other flavours, such as aniseed or cinnamon, before cutting. For variations in texture, roll out thicker or thinner dough before cutting. As diverse types of treacle have varying thicknesses, substituting blackstrap molasses can be used if desired.
Finally, cooking equipment such as clotted-cream irons can be used to flatten the dough when it is still warm from baking before adding extra ingredients like spices or chopped nuts. You can also use sandwich moulds to uniformly shape pieces of dough into cubes or cylinders – perfect for easy snacking!

Concluding thoughts on the popularity and versatility of liquorice sweets

Liquorice sweets have been a British favourite for centuries. From blackjacks to bulls’ eyes, their taste is trusted and versatile. Ideal for sharing or snacking on alone, the popularity of liquorice sweets continues to grow.

To discover more flavours, why not sample distinct types worldwide? European twists on traditional recipes add a subtle difference alongside classic favourites from Britain. Not to mention unique variations celebrating national cultures like Japanese Ichigo daifuku mochi liquorice.

Experience adventurous alternatives at home, too – it’s easy and enjoyable! With simple online tutorials available, making your liquorice sweets is an accessible challenge. Finally, remember that adding liquorice sweets to your diet in moderation can bring potential health benefits – their antioxidant content has known anti-inflammatory benefits.

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