Local foodCalabrian licorice
Calabrian licorice: a world heritage of taste
Licorice is a real treat. Its name derives from the Greek words for sweet “glucos” and root “riza.” Licorice has an interesting history, dating back thousands of years.
Famous for its dietetic nutritional values and for its unique and exquisite flavor.
This plant is also popular because of its use in a lot of recipes and notably in some liqueurs with the same taste.
One of the most famous preparations of licorice originates from Calabria, Italy. The preparation of their licorice candy gives it an intense and particular taste.
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The history of licorice
Licorice has a long history, it has been popular in Asia for at least 5,000 years.
In fact, we find mention of its existence in the first Chinese herbaria, prescribed as a medicine to treat food poisoning and respiratory problems.
We have evidence of licorice also being used in Egypt and Assyria, and known in Greek medicine.
In the 1400s it became part of the European culinary dictionary, introduced by the Dominican friars.
It is used as an herbal supplement especially in the form of herbal tea but also in the preparation of sweets.
For health-conscious people and for those who want to quit smoking, licorice sticks are available on the market. Chewable roots are also popular in the form of sugared almonds or in powder form.
Others areas where licorice is grown
Licorice is a spontaneous plant that spreads in an area located between the Iberian Peninsula and eastern China. Countries in which for centuries licorice has been deepening its roots in the soil as well as in the culture include Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the People’s Republic of China, Iraq, Mongolia, Pakistan, Spain, Turkmenistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
The licorice of Calabria DOP
Licorice is present throughout the Calabrian territory, from the mountainous interior to the coasts, and especially in the plains where it is skillfully cultivated.
The Licorice of Calabria PDO (Liquirizia di Calabria D.O.P. in Italian) was the first PDO to be granted for two product types coming from the same plant: the root and extract.
Dr. Antonio Massarotto, is the man who set up a Consortium for the protection of this local licorice. This special plant is a local PDO product that has truly earned its world-renowned awards.
The period between the 600s and 700s is recognized as the golden age of Calabrian licorice. Licorice farmers can be identified and pinpointed simply by their product on a world spice map. This is due to the delicate quality of individual products as well as the established and professional production processes involved.
Nevertheless, the following period between the 800s and 900s the licorice market began to undergo profound changes. French licorice producers started to introduce a cheaper and lower-quality product to gain share in a flourishing confectionery market.
In the United States, licorice began to be used increasingly as a tobacco flavoring, using this spice with lower quality requirements.
Other circumstances such as the use of licorice surrogate by the pharmaceutical industry, the reconversion of licorice farms for other types of crops, and the dramatic event of the first world war lead licorice farmers in Calabria to almost disappear.
Today with the help of the Local Rural Development Program and the project to establish the licorice of Calabria as a PDO, the market of this treasurable spice is thriving again.
How many authorized producers of Calabrian PDO licorice are there currently?
Currently in Calabria, there are three companies that use the Licorice of Calabria DOP and are registered with the Consortium for the protection of the licorice of Calabria DOP. The manufacturing companies are Nature Med, LiquirGam, and Wild Orange.
We would like to say thank you to “Nature Med” for providing us with all the images you see in this article.
The cultivation method in Calabria
The processing that makes this DOP licorice depends on the deeply worked Calabrian soil and the planting of the root cuttings.
There are no particular cultivation practices. Crops usually reach maturation by their third or fourth year.
The activity of collecting the roots takes place alongside the plowing and processing, this does not exceed 60 cm in depth. The roots are also extracted manually from the ground and collected in bundles and then transferred to collection centers.
What makes Calabria DOP licorice special is the method of soil care, tillage, and the intrinsic properties of the Calabrian soil.
What are the properties of licorice?
There are several active ingredients in licorice that contribute to its unique flavour profile such as triterpene compounds and their derivatives. We find glycyrrhizin, flavonoids, phytosterols, saponins, mannitol, vitamins, and starches in this plant.
The most important compound, and consequently the most famous, is glycyrrhizin and is concentrated in the roots.
Licorice is also often used to make herbal teas and products. Some of its benefits include:
As for a decoction licorice, its laxative power is excellent especially for those with problems related to irritable bowel syndrome.
Appearance and flavor of Calabria DOP licorice
It is straw yellow in colour and has a sweet, but intense aromatic flavour.
The dried root ranges from straw yellow to ocher yellow. The root extract has a wonderful flavour, somewhere between sweet, bitter, and aromatic.
1. To prepare the licorice liqueur, start by making the syrup: Pour the brown sugar into a pan, add the water and bring to the boil, over a moderate flame.
2. Once the sugar has completely dissolved into the water, reduce to a low heat and add the licorice powder, mix with a whisk until it dissolves. Now, turn off the heat and blend everything with a mixer to ensure the flavours are blended completely and eliminate any lumps.
3. Strain the obtained mixture directly into a bowl and let it cool completely. Once cold, add the alcohol and incorporate it by mixing it with a whisk, to obtain a shiny liqueur you will need to skim the mixture.
4. At this point, all you have to do is bottle your licorice liqueur.
We advise you to serve your favorite liqueur with a licorice stick in a glass of your own to show the wonderful color.
It is possible to serve it hot and with an ice cube but it is excellent even if served cold as soon as it comes out of the refrigerator.
As you have seen Calabria DOP licorice is a delicacy, and is an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle.
The Licorice of Calabria DOP is obtained from crops and wild plants of the Glycyrrhiza glabra species.
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