The long and delicious history of Liquorice

When the aroma of liquorice hovers over the streets of Porvoo, you know that Brunberg’s factory is cooking a batch of soft, fresh, black, and rich liquorice.

Liquorice is one of the most popular sweets in Finland.  Brunberg included liquorice in their selection in 1932 but the roots of the black and sweet delicacy go back to at least 3000BC.

A famous pharaoh and fights that were won, thanks to liquorice

In Finland, as well as the rest of the world, liquorice was initially known as a medicine. 5000 years ago, liquorice was used for problems of the heart, the pancreas, and the skin.  It was also used as seasoning and is still China’s most frequently used condiment after ginseng.

In ancient Mesopotamia around 2,500 years BC, the physicians kept liquorice in their medical bags to ward off evil spirits and to be used as a medicine and stimulant.  A love potion was also prepared to freshen the lover’s breath and intensify their love life.

You may have heard of the curse of Tutankhamun? But perhaps you have not heard of his passion for liquorice.  When the archaeologists opened his tomb (he died 1327 BC) they found, along with the mummy, a root of liquorice.  The intention had been to enable him to enjoy a cup of his beloved Mai Sus potion upon arrival in the afterlife. 

Nero, the Emperor of Rome, and his legionnaires had a strong belief in liquorice. The legionnaires chewed roots of liquorice to ease hunger and thirst. 

Many great men have fought with the help of liquorice, such as Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte who chewed the root to calm his nerves before battle.

A delicious mistake

Like many other success stories, the liquorice we eat today started by mistake.

In the small town of Pontefract in England liquorice was grown in the garden of a Spanish monastery. The monks made small round Pontefract cakes for medicinal purposes. 

One day in 1760 the pharmacist George Dunhill, from Pontefract was baking cakes and added by mistake wheat flour and sugar. Thus, a sweet was born which rapidly became famous the world over. 

In Finland, liquorice has been a pharmacy product since the 19th century as a medicine and to ease hunger.  Apart from pharmacists, pastry cooks also willingly used liquorice.


Brunberg Liquorice – a classic since 1932

The Finns learned to love the black delicacy early on. In the 1900’s many Finnish sweet factories were started up and they included liquorice in their selections. 

The predecessor of Brunberg, Oy Brunberg Lindfors Ab, started making liquorice in 1932.

Since then the Brunberg liquorice has been made according to an almost unchanged recipe. 

The recipe is brilliant in its simplicity.  The only ingredients are wheat flour, sugar, syrup, powder of liquorice roots and patience. 

Patience, because the best liquorice requires time and commitment.  Even though there are faster methods today to make the journey from paste to bag the difference between a fast and a slow process is enormous. 

At Brunberg’s a batch is cooked for 2.5 hours, after which the paste is spread out on plates and placed in the oven where it will mature for up to 16 hours. 

When the liquorice is mature its texture is smooth and resilient.  If the liquorice is bland it has not matured long enough. 

The secret behind the smooth flavour is the low content of glycyrrhizin, which gives Brunberg liquorice its rounded and smooth taste.

Liquorice Pipes and Carrot Liquorice

Over the years Brunberg’s selection has included among others, liquorice pipes, liquorice rolls and during World War II, carrot liquorice.  The factory met the craving for sweets for the Finnish people with the raw materials that were available at the time.

Today, the craving for liquorice is bigger than ever. It is used in baking, but it is also excellent for the seasoning of salty dishes.  Liquorice even has its own festivals!

The Brunberg selection of today includes the traditional Brunberg liquorice, Brunberg Oat Liquorice, Brunberg Salmiak Liquorice and Brunberg Tar-flavoured Liquorice.

There is also liquorice in the following sweets: Alku Toffee Liquorice, Alku Toffee Lemon Liquorice and Brunberg Liquorice Toffee.


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