The confection called Liquorice is very popular and is enjoyed by many people around the western world. Unknown to most consumers though, liquorice has been around in one form or another for a very, very long time. Liquorice has endured a rich and long history. There is evidence to prove that liquorice was consumed by the people of ancient civilizations, especially the Egyptians, although not in the form that we know of today. In ancient Egypt, liquorice was not eaten as strips or ropes of candy we know today but as a sweet liquid. The extract of the plant called the Glycyrrhiza, which means 'sweet root' in Greek, was indulged upon by many prophets and pharaohs. Also documented was the use of this extract that came in handy in the battlefields and the dessert where soldiers and travelers drank to relieve their thirst on long marches.
It would not be until the Middle Ages when the liquorice plant and its extracts were brought to England by the Crusaders who came home from the East. A certain monastery in Pontefract, England began using the extract and turned it into liquorice candy and it became well-known throughout the country. In time, liquorice recipes were brought to America by the early settlers. The US has been producing and importing liquorice products ever since.
The process of manufacturing liquorice candy has two methods. The use of which method depends on the scale the company is to produce. This means that candy companies that operate on a small production scale use the Corn Starch Molding Process, which is the same process used to make candy corns. The company with a larger production scale manufactures using the Liquorice Rope Extrusion Process and is quite different.
For smaller-scale production companies that use the Corn Starch Molding Process, the process starts with trays that contain long rows of molds for the product which are filled with corn starch. The corn starch is vital because it prevents the liquorice from sticking to the mold and makes it easier to remove. Ingredients like sugar, corn syrup and liquorice extract are cooked together until they become hot syrup. It is important that the cooking of the syrup is given a lot of attention because this step determines the texture of the product. The candy could by soft, chewy, or tough because of this step. The syrup is then poured onto the trays and the molds are filled. The trays are then set aside to cool. When the liquorice is cool, they are dumped into a surface. Because of the corn starch, the liquorice just falls off the tray easily. On the surface, the liquorice is given a glaze that creates its glossy appearance. They are then packed, labeled and prepared to be shipped.
The other way to make liquorice candy is used in large-scale productions and is called the Liquorice Rope Extrusion Process. Production starts in the boiling room where a mixture of licorice root extract is boiled to an exact temperature. When it gets hot enough, the desired colors and flavors are added to the mix and cooked slowly until it achieves a dough-like consistency. The dough mix is then passed through an extruder where the dough is forced out of tiny holes. These holes form the dough into ropes of liquorice. When the liquorice ropes are formed, they are either allowed to cool and set directly or twisted to form a more 'rope' texture and are then cut into pieces. When set, these are glazed to give the sheen they are known for and then packaged and shipped to candy stores around the country.The History and Making of Liquorice
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