Monday, July 11, 2011
My sense of adventure with licorice from around the world is starting to ruin my appreciation of licorice. I’ve found that I’ve spent a lot of time trying to appreciate other versions, especially the salted styles from Northern Europe, that I’m spending less of my time just eating the products I’ve already found I love.
After my earlier experiments with German licorice, more specifically, licorice from Haribo (Lakritz Parade, Goliath Lakritz-Stangen and Sali-Kritz) , you’d think I would have learned something. I found most of the licorice I bought there downright inedible by my preferences. Yet when I was at Mel & Rose Wine and Liquors last month, I bought yet another Haribo licorice product. At the very least while I was in Germany I could rationalize that the candy was cheap, most under one Euro per package, here it was over $3.00.
They’re called Haribo Pearlico. The ingredients seemed to indicate that they were a children’s licorice, with no ammonia salts. My mouth may say otherwise.
I admit that I was attracted by the look of them. Each is a large mounded gumdrop shape. They’re soft enough to be squished with firm pressure. The ingredients are all natural, so the muted tones of the little candy spheres coating the licorice center is made from vegetable dyes.
At the center of each is a soft licorice gumdrop made with treacle flavor and licorice. It’s earthy, soft and relatively smooth. The candy sphere are soft and crunchy, not dense like the American version that might be found on SnoCaps. If you’ve ever had the Haribo Raspberries, you’ll know what I mean.
The licorice center has a lot of molasses flavor, some deep ginger and beet notes, burnt sugar and soft anise. But every once in a while I was getting a real whiff of ammonia. At first I thought that certain colors were ammonia (yellow in particular) but it turned out that they were all the same, just very mildly “salted” licorice.
As a first introduction to the world of salted licorice, they’re good. The textures are fun, though the colors remind me of something that’s been left in the sun to be bleached, like old plastic toys found washed up in October on the beach.
The center contains a combination of gelatin and agar-agar so it’s not quite suitable for vegetarians.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
While I was in Europe earlier this year I made a point to sample as much licorice as I possibly could. What I found is that the world of licorice products varies greatly by cultural tradition, price point and intensity. Here are a dozen items I found, in descending order of my affection.
I meant it when I said I’m starting with the high point of my European licorice adventures. I loved this stuff.
When I was walking the exhibits at ISM Cologne (the largest candy trade show in the world), I knew that I wanted to visit the Amarelli Licorice booth. They sell wonderful little tins of intense licorice pastilles. I’ve been buying their minty coated version called Bianconeri for about 10 years, though not very often because each tin is about $6 and holds about an ounce.
I was not disappointed by their booth. They had so many different products I had never tried. The ones that impressed me the most were little glycerine pastilles that were rose or violet along with the intense and smooth black licorice. (I don’t know how they sell those, they just said that they didn’t come in tins.)
I tried their pebble looking candy coated licorice called Sassolini which I was enchanted immediately.
They’re much bigger than their other products, most of these are larger than a Peanut M&M. They’re irregular and do a convincing imitation of an actual little rock. The thickness of the soft cream and blue colors have a pleasing heft to them.
The flavor of the candy shell is vanilla, soft and with a hint of the anise underneath. The center is a chewy black licorice that has an intense flavor of both licorice and anise. They’re really strong and the dense chew of the center means they last a long time, though they do get stuck in my teeth if I chew them up instead of letting them dissolve. The flavor lingers as a dull buzzing feeling on my tongue long after its gone. I like this so much I found that Licorice International carries the nuggets in bulk, so I ordered two 6 ounce packages to refill my tin.
The tin shows a child at the beach (or perhaps just a lakeshore) with a big red pail and sail boats in the background. Of all the designs of their tins, this is my least favorite, perhaps because the design is less focused on the typography.
I first read about Lakrids by Johan Bulow on Chocablog last year. I was hoping to sample their line at ISM Cologne, so I wasn’t disappointed when I found their booth and got to try everything. They sent me home with a few packages of their line of gourmet licorice using real licorice root. The whole line comes in these chic little plastic jars. The products are all named with numbers of letters. The Choc Coated Liquorice is A.
They’re gluten free, which is pretty rare for a licorice product as most of the American and Australian styles are wheat based.
They’re also really expensive at about $8 to $10 per 165 gram (5.8 ounces) jar. (I see a trend already with my licorice leanings, I like the quality stuff.)
They smell a little woodsy and milky. The powdery coating on the outside isn’t cocoa, it’s ground licorice. True licorice is very sweet, and this stuff definitely was real and potent. A little touch to my tongue and it was a sweetness that has no thick or sticky quality like sugar. There’s a deep woodsy note to it as well. The chocolate is sweet and milky, and provides more a texture to the candy than a chocolate flavor. Most of what I got was milk, not chocolate. The licorice center isn’t very sweet but also not quite a salty licorice. There were strong molasses and toffee notes, burnt flavors and dark mossy notes.
It’s more of a savory treat than sweet. It’s incredibly munchable but at the same time, very satisfying to have two or three and be done.
Johan Bulow makes a wide variety of products already, including Habanero Chili Licorice and Chili Cranberry Licorice. I was also taken with the simplicity of the Lakrids 1: Sweet Licorice.
The glossy little nibs hardly look like real edibles, but they are. The flavor is rich and actually creamy. The flavor has a backdrop of roasted notes that come from treacle. It was sweet and bitter. The texture was a little gummy, and did stick to my teeth a bit. Like the chocolate covered version, I didn’t feel the need to keep eating it after a few pieces because they actually satisfied me.
So I got back to Los Angeles with this sample and I was confused and kind of embarrassed by my assumptions. I thought it was Italian. The name is Carletti but I found out it’s a Danish company.
I also picked up some other items they make, such as Dutch Mints (or as they call them Mintlinser Drage) which were also nicely packaged and featured (as far as I can tell with my limited knowledge of Danish) all natural colorings. (See website.)
The little pieces of firm licorice are covered in colorful (naturally colored) candy shells. They’re a little narrower than a regular Chiclet and a bit thicker. The chew was a bit dense but had an excellent flavor profile. It wasn’t salty but also not terribly sweet. The shells seemed to have a light flavor of their own, the orange being notably orange and the purple possibly violet. The center was a bitter and had some good molasses to it.
I was put off by the bitterness, but drawn to the other flavors within, something like charcoal and burnt toast and licorice. But the intensity kept me coming back.
Mentos Lakrits Mint
I’ve purchased Lakrits Mint Mentos a few times before, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually included them in a post.
They look rather watery, not very intense. But don’t let the fact that they’re not full of caramel coloring or molasses fool you. They’re quite licoricey. The flavor does have some of the deep woodsy notes and they’re oddly creamy when chewed. The mint is mostly in the crunchy shell and fades away quickly. The salty tones are very mild, for folks who have never tried salted licorice, this is a good starter.
Mentos Drop Citroen & Drop Aardbei
A more unusual version I found in Amsterdam is the roll that mixes Drop Citroen and Drop Aardbei. Drop is the generic name for licorice in Dutch.
The package may have made it look like one half was Lemon and one half was Strawberry, but they were just a random mix. Mine had about 2/3 aardbei.
The curious structure is revealed ... at the center is a little core of licorice inside the normal fruit chew.
The combination? Well, I wouldn’t say that I loved them, but I did end up eating them all. The center wasn’t so much about licorice, it was more of a salty and molasses flavor, a bit more savory than the bland fruity outside. The lemon was mild and only sweetness. The strawberry was a bit more nuanced, with some more floral and cotton candy notes to it.
This is also made by Perfetti Van Melle, the same folks who make Mentos. What I learned a little bit late in my Dutch adventure was the difference between Zoet and Zout. Drop Zoet are sweet licorice and Drop Zout are salty licorice. One little letter ... so much meaning.
A mix of griotten shaped like large hemispheres and salty rockies. Rockies are a tube of licorice filled with a grainy but slightly less intense licorice cream. They’re sanded with a bit of sugar. They were rooty and earthy. The texture was a bit more doughy than the other brands I’ve been buying and less of a licorice punch with slightly more ammonia salt.
I really bought these because of my curiosity when it came to the little domes. I didn’t know what they were. Turns out, as I mentioned above, they’re like Griotten, a small and dense licorice marshmallow.
It’s a little doughy and spicy. The griotten texture is like a firm, dense marshmallow with a sugary crust. The flavor is deep and not as intense as others I’ve had. There’s a vague ammonia salt note to it, but a strong licorice flavor with a hint of molasses. The molasses gives it the taste of a spice cookie, which is what they look like to me.
Katjes Fruit Tappsy (Germany)
I’ve had the mild licorice Tappsy before. They feature a panda face with different flavors for the ears or other contrasting color parts.
The Fruit Tappsy are gummis with a strong and stiff chew. The licorice portion is mild and the fruity portions are actually quite vibrant. The combination of licorice and fruit, though, is really not to my liking. I think the texture of the Tappsy with the marshmallow base might give a creamier component to these that might bringing it all together for me.
I’m not saying that they’re bad, just not really my favorite of the Tappsy versions out there.
I’ve tried AutoDrop candies before, based solely on the name. The entire brand of AutoDrop candies, made by Van Slooten, are based around the theme of cars and their drivers. Some are winegums but most are licorice. This bag certainly caught my eye, with its matte black background and blue foil line art.
Inside are five different candies, each with a different shape, texture and flavor profile. I don’t actually know what the name means. Donder means thunder, but maybe Donders means crashes.
Megpiraat - one eyed, grinning face - a stiff but smooth chewing molded licorice piece. The flavor has a nice mix of molasses and licorice, which is a light sweetness. A little touch of anise and some deep toffee notes.
Spookrijder - looks like a rustic piece of chalk. I was hoping it would be like Skoolkrijt (a tube of licorice filled with cream and covered in a minty candy shell). The shell is minty, but also a little crumbly. The interior looks like grainy brown sugar and has a pleasant molasses undertone and a faint licorice flavor and a hint of salmiak.
Zondagsruder - a smooth licorice gummi, I quite liked this one. It wasn’t very strong on flavor, more like a light anise with a sweet marshmallow & vanilla note.
Brokkenpiloot - this was the saltiest of the bunch and one that I pulled out of the mix. Unfortunately, it’s also the one I had the most of.
Bumperklever - caramel colored piece that has a light toffee and licorice flavor. This had a bouncy texture that was almost a marshmallow gummi. Sweet but a little salty as well but without the bitter metallic aftertaste.
Overall, kind of a losing situation for me. Out of duty I ate all the Zondagrsruder and a few of the Spookrijder and Bumperklever, but the rest have just been sitting around.
Haribo Lakritz Parade
This mix was like a German version of All Sorts. It included cream licorice (made with fondant) and other panned candies in addition to molded salted licorice pieces. I picked up the peg bag at the grocery store, again, for about a Euro ($1.40).
The little colored pieces were lovely, what’s more, the package said that they only use all natural colorings. There were licorice rods covered in a candy shell, covered in fondant (like All Sorts without the coconut) and larger diamonds of salty licorice covered in a shell (I reviewed those already). There were also little M&Ms which were a crumbly molassesy sugar mixed with licorice and salt.
They looked great, but I can’t say that my problem was with the flavor as most were just bland. The pastilles were bland, just kind of earthy and chewy. The little lentil thing was just grainy and a little bitter, the colorful licorice tubes were just sweet.
The molded licorice shapes were enchanting to look at. I can’t say that their attention to quality control was great. These were the best in the bunch. The salino is like a Zout, it was doughy and yes, a little bland except for the strong ammonia quality. The others were, again, watery and tasteless except for a dirt and vague anise note. The chew was smooth.
This is another licorice I bought in Amsterdam. It was pretty cheap, I’d say less than $2 American. I wanted just a simple licorice pastel. I’ve had Venco products before, I buy their Skoolkrijt all the time. So I thought their version of Good & Plenty would be great as well. I also lucked out that I chose a zoet licorice (unlike that Haribo Sali-Kritz)
I was worried about the word hard in the description, but at least that part turned out not to be true.
First, I’m not keen on dark colored candies, they tend to need more coloring, which displaces actual flavors and textures that should be there. So the blue and the black ones were not ones I ate with much interest.
The little rods of licorice are covered in a thin but crunchy shell. The licorice at the center is actually overpowered by the flavor of the shell. The shells, in some cases were flavored. I don’t know if they were supposed to be flavored, but the blue/purple ones were definitely floral, like violet. Not heavily licorice flavored, these just left me bored. Even the color assortment didn’t thrill me. Half of the fun of candy coated candy is the look of it.
While I was traveling in Germany I mostly when off of how things looked, but every once in a while, I pulled out my Android phone (which didn’t work as a phone) and used the German-English dictionary to look things up. So I knew that this was a black licorice bar. The character on the front says that it’s soft licorice. So at least the words were helpful.
The package is creepy. I like the boldness of it, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of the graphic work that Haribo does. But this anthropomorphic character of a string of licorice palling around with a boy is just weird. Go ahead, look at it closer. But hey, it’s what’s inside that counts, right. I didn’t even flinch at the insulting Asian caricature in the previous mix.
It’s a hefty bar, at 125 grams (4.41 ounces) for about a buck.
The bar pulls apart into licorice rods quite easily. Each is about the size and shape of an unsharpened pencil. It is soft and pliable, glossy and really looks so promising.
But it tastes so bad. The chew is dense and has a strong wheat flavor to it, yes, it actually tastes a bit like flour or al dente pasta. But there’s more, it’s a bit tangy, in the way that weak coffee can be tangy. And it has a weak licorice flavor to go with that. It’s only vaguely sweet and not quite salty. It’s not overtly earthy but tastes a little musty.
This has pushed me over the edge to proclaim that I don’t wish to ever eat another Haribo licorice product again.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
During my travels in Germany I was enchanted by the extraordinary selection of Haribo products. In some stores they took up an enormous amount of shelf space with dozens and dozens of items. Their products spans a much larger range in Germany where they have gummies, jellies, licorice, chews and marshmallows.
In the United States the only licorice items I see from Haribo are the Licorice Wheels, which are competent starter or snacking licorice. I was hoping to find the more exotic stuff. I was excited to find this bag of Haribo Sali-Kritz which was both beautiful and an interesting product idea.
The candies are described on the package as Lakritz Dragee, basically licorice pastilles. They’re large soft slightly salted licorice diamonds covered in a flavored candy shell.
The lozenge shape pieces are large - about 1.25 inches long with soft rounded edges. They come in seven colors, all pastels: pink, green, yellow, soft red, blue, orange and white. They’re also flavored to match those colors, though I could find no code and kind of had to figure it out for myself.
The candy shell is a little thicker than a Good and Plenty rod. The colors are muted (they’re all natural) and sometimes a little less than consistent looking. The shell is crisp but grainy, but does a good job of keeping the licorice inside soft and chewy. The flavor of the shell was light, like the outside of a jelly bean ... and the inside was a very mild ammonia salt licorice. The most difficult thing I’m experiencing now as I’ve probably tried about 50 different kinds of licorice in the past month is that I don’t even know what I like any longer. But that’s something I can keep working at.
Some flavor combinations worked well for me, like lemon (yellow) or strawberry (pink) but others like pineapple (white) or apple (green) were just a little too different. But mostly what was a problem for me was the salted licorice center. The ammonia part wasn’t particularly strong unless I ate two or three, then I felt like every time I exhaled, I smelled like I needed to change the cat litter (which is alarming since I don’t have a cat). I think the salt level would have been moderated nicely by some stronger licorice, toffee and molasses flavors.
I find that I can just eat one of these and be happy. The more I eat in one sitting, the less pleased I am. The novelty of a flavored shell is a plus, but the ammonia level on the licorice is a negative. For a starter licorice for those who want to experience salted licorice, this might be a good start.
Monday, June 21, 2010
The licorice plant was not native to the area, it was likely brought in and planted sometime after the Crusades, sometime around the year 1000 or perhaps as late as 1090 when the Benedictine monks that came to the town to found their monastery. Licorice root was steeped and used like a syrup to sweeten drinks (or flavor spirits) and the roots were chewed as a treat. Sometime around 500 years ago the locals created a licorice confection known as Pontefract Cakes, which are really more of a little medallion of molasses-based licorice. The disks look rather like a coin or a blob of sealing wax. They don’t grow licorice in the area any longer, but there are still two factories that make the age old sweet: Haribo and Monkhill Confections (originally known as Wilkinson’s).
In fact, true Pontefract cakes were made by hand until the 60s. Rolls of licorice dough were pieced into little blobs and then hand stamped. These Haribo Pontefract Cakes preserve that hand-stamped look.
I was expecting these to be stiff and hard, like the continental European licorice. Instead they’re quite soft and pliable. They have a matte finish and feel like coins made out of silicone. I found that even though I didn’t seal up the bag well, they still didn’t get stale or tacky.
The early cakes had different embossed images in them, it’s said that they were of the Pontefract Castle, but this Haribo one is just a vague rectangle in the center (that might be a castle with a flag) and the Haribo Original name.
They smell sweet and a little herbal. Since these weren’t American-style licorice pieces (that usually contain wheat), I was expecting something a little smoother but perhaps a bit stronger. Instead I found quite a different flavor profile. First, it’s barely sweet. The sweetness is woodsy and rather delicate. The chew of the cake is soft and not quite gummy but more hearty than a gumdrop. There’s a little hint of salt to it (actually quite a bit 200 mg of sodium per serving) and the charcoal notes of molasses. The nice part about the flavor is that it’s a true licorice, not amped up anise. It’s mild and soothing.
They were a little weak to satisfy my licorice desires. I like a really hearty licorice with a lot of molasses with caramel, toasted sugar and charcoal notes, it seems to moderate the very sweet nature of true licorice. But these are easy to eat and though they stick to my teeth a little bit, the smoothness keeps me coming back for me.
These contain real licorice, so those with heath concerns with licorice extract should avoid it. It’s also made with gelatin, so it’s not for vegetarians or those who keep Kosher/Halal.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Haribo makes dozens of kinds of candy usually in fanciful shapes. The Haribo Raspberries Gummi Candy are kind of the other end of the spectrum. They look just like the real thing. They’re the same size and approximate the shape and texture of real raspberries and blackberries very well.
The Raspberries are a popular item for wedding candy buffets because they’re elegant with their sharp red and black colors but also because they do well in summer heat.
Oddly enough, before buying this bag, I’d never had the Haribo version before. I’ve had the Jelly Belly Confections brand, but saw no reason to try anything else.
I picked up this “value bag” at Target. Value is mostly accurate, it’s a half a pound for $1.49 - which is pretty good for Haribo. This particular bag was made in Turkey, I know that Haribo varies depending on which of their global facilities the candies are made in.
They are cute and exquisitely formed. Each is made up of a soft clear gummi center covered with black or red large nonpareils. The nonpareils themselves aren’t particularly flavored, the pop is in the center.
I don’t think there’s supposed to be a difference between the two, but I sense one.
The Black Raspberries are lightly bitter, like smoke, on the tip of my tongue. The center is a mild and tangy raspberry jelly. It’s not really gummi but completely smooth with only a slight bouncy chew. It wasn’t a full-bodied jam flavor, just a light floral berry juice.
The Red Raspberries were actually more to my liking, though much sweeter. I wish the nonpareils weren’t quite so sweet or at least had a little more flavor to them. But at least the red ones didn’t taste weird to me. (Odd because the only food coloring mentioned on the package was Red 40, my nemesis, which I would have expected to ruin the red ones.)
Overall, they’re pretty and probably fun for decorating or display, but not enough pop for me to keep eating. I will note again that these were from Turkey, the ones made in the German factory may be much better.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I’ve been fascinated with Japanese cola candies for a while, and I think I completely forgot about the German cola candies. (I did review the Haribo Fizzy Cola a few years back.)
The great thing about Haribo is that they make an incredible variety with a huge variation of flavors and shapes. The bad thing about Haribo is that the quality varies depending on which factory they’re made in. These were made in Spain.
The bottles are nicely formed, they’re plump and have the shape of a soda bottle. The candy is created using two different colors - a dark amber and a clear, the bottom of the bottle is the darker color and gives the impression of a glass bottle filled with cola. So simple, but so convincing.
These are rather firm but still have a pleasant cola scent when I stick my nose in the bag and inhale. It’s a little lemony citrus and a bit of spice.
The firm bite doesn’t burst forth with much flavor. It’s at first citrusy ... a little tangy. Later I get the cola notes, which is a little woodsy and mellow spice. But it’s very bland. It’s like lemon soda with a splash of cola instead of a cola splashed with lemon.
I want something a little more intense, something that gives me a lot of cola flavor. Maybe I’m spoiled or impatient ... these are still fun though, a great summer vacation candy to munch on while on long drives.
Friday, October 24, 2008
A few months ago I picked up some Kosher Haribo Pink Grapefruit Gummis.
I love grapefruit and I love Haribo’s take on them. They’re gummy and chewy and have a nice crisp bite to them. I was curious though what the difference would be like with the Kosher version. It uses a fish gelatin instead of a non-Kosher gelatin that I can only guess is porcine in origin. (Gelatin is the thing that keeps me from being a true vegetarian - I just love gummis more than I love animals right now.)
Anyway, I’ve digressed. The Kosher version seemed gummier, seemed more gelatinous, seemed firmer and chewier. Happily it was also very intensely flavored, stellarly attractive and of course in my belly.
Haribo makes a bunch of other products that they don’t sell in the United States. I found this imported Haribo Saure Dinosaurier. The majority of the packages is in French with some German and a third version of the ingredients is in Spanish. The only thing in English is their tagline “kids and grown ups love it so.”
I’m no French major, but I know that this package contains sour dinosaur gummis.
The front of the package shows a bunch of different colored dinosaurs, but I only found four inside. Each shape came in all colors. The different dinos appeared to be Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Apatosaurus and Triceratops.
The sugar sanding is rather thin and has small grains to it. It’s not sour either, it’s pure sweet sugar.
Green is green apple (in the Haribo gummi bear world green is strawberry, so I had to close my eyes a couple of times to be sure). This was great with some really authentic apple flavors.
Red is definitely cherry. Like a Blow Pop and Kool-Aid.
Clear is peach. I have no idea why. But I liked it! It was kind of like a nectarine, none of that weird fuzzy taste, it was tangy and sweet.
Yellow is an eye popping lemon. Like eating a concentrated batch of lemonade mix. It doesn’t have a lot of zest to it, but it’s unmistakably lemon.
The sanded gummis don’t have a lot of detail and they all smell rather similar, kind of like a big bag of mixed Jolly Ranchers.
I found the overall level of the sourness to be rather adult, not shocking or blistering but certainly tingly and it got my salivary glands going.
The chew is not like the soft and lingering durability of a gummi bear. Instead these are more like Sour Patch Kids, an easy bite and quick chew. They were on the expensive side, but I’m sure I could find them cheaper if I were in Europe. I’ve noticed that even Haribo’s own Gold Bears taste different depending on which factory they were made in. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get a hold of the German Gold Bears in the United States, but these were made in Germany.
Monday, July 24, 2006
If you like Haribo’s Happy Cola gummis but wish they were more like real soda and gave you burps and such, wish no more. Fizzy Cola not only has a the nice spicy cola bite, it also has a sugary/tart sanding that gives it a sassy, fizzy feeling.
I always thought that the Haribo Happy Cola bottles were a little tame. Sure, they tasted like cola, but they also tasted a little ‘flat.’ These little gummi bottles are the best candy I’ve had that capture the soda experience.
That said, I’m not really that big a fan of soda.
Since they are a little gassy, I can’t gorge myself on them without negative feedback. So in that respect they’re good for helping me to monitor my intake. I doubt that other people have the same issues I do with them so I’m still giving them a good rating because they are quite different from other candies and cola is an underutilized flavor in the candy world.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.