Liquorice, also known as "lakrids" or "lakrits" in Scandinavian languages, is a popular candy and flavouring in the region. It has a distinct taste that is loved by many Scandinavians, and it is often used in desserts, drinks, and other culinary creations. Scandinavians actually eat the most liquorice per capita in the world. In Scandinavia you can find both “regular liquorice” and something called “saltlakrits” or “salmiakki”. This is a type of liquorice that stands out for Scandinavia and is something that you either love or hate. Salty liquorice is a unique candy with an intriguing combination of sweet and salt that is known and loved only by approximately 1% of the world’s population. It can be a hard sell to those who haven't grown up eating it, and that group includes pretty much everyone outside of the Nordic countries, Holland, and northern Germany. Eating it can be unpleasant, even borderline painful. So how is salty liquorice different from regular liquorice and why do Scandinavians love it so much? Salty liquorice has the addition of "salmiak salt" which is how it gets its salty taste. In the 19th century, salmiakki was sold in Finnish pharmacies as powder, pastilles and in liquid format as a medicine for a list of different illnesses. Why someone then decided that a medicin would be an excellent addition to candy seems to be lost to history and so is the reason why Scandis love it so much. No one seems to know. What we do know is that Scandi children are very often introduced to the taste of salty liquorice early in life and as with most flavours and tastes that you are introduced to in your childhood, it brings you nostalgia later in life and you will more likely like it as an adult as well.
Salty liquorice is a watershed. Some think it's the true black gold and others think it’s' the most disgusting thing on planet Earth. So why is it that some people love salty liquorice while others simply cannot stand it?
The reason is because we learn to recognise certain smells and to connect them with something good. Most people, for example, think that vanilla smells sweet but it actually doesn’t. The reason we think it smells sweet is because we connect it to the sweet food it usually spices, like cakes. And most people like sweet because it reminds us of yummy carbs. But salty liquorice, which is almost exclusively found in Scandinavia, is a bit of a special case. It is a bit of a taste trap, where smell and taste do not “match”. The smell of salty liquorice has the sweetest tones, but when you put it in your mouth, the salty ammonia taste strikes. If you know about this, and are prepared, then you can appreciate the difference. For everyone else, however, it will be a very quick and strong reaction, and it is next to impossible not to spit out the candy.
If you did not grow up with it, the taste of salty liquorice will be a huge shock. Some people think that Scandis like it so much because we have always preserved our food with salt and thus it’s a familiar taste. Sweet and salt as a combination is also something very Scandinavian. Take pickled herring for example, it's salty and sweet. So maybe the reason why Scandis love salty liquorice so much is because it brings out a homely comforting flavour that we all love, and maybe when we live abroad we like it even more because it does just that- reminds us of home. So if you're feeling homesick, make sure to visit our liquorice collection and get yourself some salty and sweet reminders of home, and why not get some for your non-Scandinavian friends too, just to see their reaction.