What do King Tut, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon all have in common? Yes, they were all men of power but the tie that binds them together is licorice. King Tut was buried with it, Alexander the Great used it to sooth thirsty soldiers on long marches, and Napoleon ate so much that his teeth turned black. The Clycyrrhiza glabra plant has been around for thousands of years, a legume related to peas, and has been revered for its medicinal properties from Asia to Europe. In Scandinavia they love it so much there’s a festival in Sweden to celebrate the hundreds of salty and sweet varieties stocked on the grocery shelves.
The root, from which our candy and medicinals are derived is up to 40 percent sweeter than sugar. Wow. When I’m in New York City, a trip to Myzel’s is a must at 140 West 55th. The family owned business stocks the more common twizzlers, but also the nibs, cream rocks, jellybeans and my favorite, allsorts. There are Scottie dog shapes, pipes, cigars, start and tire tracks. By coincidence, the mail order Licorice International in Lincoln, Nebraska began as a result of a retiring confectioner in New York. Licorice fanatics in the heartland who will be celebrating National Licorice Day April 12. Who knew?
For New Year’s Day, I made a licorice pudding which I recommend. The recipe calls for Panda brand but I used RJ’s and it worked well. The hardest part is cutting up the licorice into little bits. I did it the night before so I wasn’t grouchy while making the actual pudding. The taste is not heavy licorice, mild and sweet. Presentation wise…it looks a little bland, especially with the tea cakes. Next time I’ll work on that.
There have been health cautions about licorice noting that the glycyrrhetinic acid can have an effect on blood pressure, so don’t gorge. Good advice on many things.