Monday, 22 December 2014

The Root of All Sorts...

All things sweet come to mind over the next few weeks, yummm…
Coltsfoot rock, blackjacks, jujubes, comfits, zouts, pontefract cake, bootlaces and Yorkshire pennies.  Nostalgic confectionary names to all things liquorice flavored.   

The intense bitter sweet flavor of  liquorice is extracted from the roots of the plant Glycyrrhiza. Its name is derived from Greek meaning Glukos (sweet) and rhiza (root). Through the process of crushing and boiling the root a saponin within called glycyrrhizin is released and a thick black treacle substance is produced.

Glycyrrhiza at the Botanic Garden
In its pure form glycyrrhizin is fifty times sweeter than ordinary sugar. It takes four years for the roots to be mature enough for harvesting, this high demand has left the plant endangered in parts of China where it is commercially sold to sweeten, flavour and colour products such as gingerbread, beer, tea, and tobacco
Medicinally it is highly regarded for the treatment of digestive complaints, coughs and colds, but also to flavour and disguise unpalatable medicines, which is why liquorice is such a love or loathe taste!
Britain had a thriving liquorice trade in the 17th century, monks grew plantations of Glycyrhizza glabra in their monasteries, most famously Pontefract in Yorkshire. They were among the first to mix liquorice with sugar to produce the sweet known as  Pontefract or pomfrey  cake, a hard boiled circular disc of licorice with the traditional trade mark of a castle and owl stamped upon on them.
So between eating the chocolate and nuts during the festivities why not take a journey down memory lane and enjoy a licorice stick, wand or wheel.

Great British Bake Off chef Paul Hollywood recommends a great recipe for this distinct flavour, check it out here.

Have a very, merry Christmas everyone!

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