Before the days of electric motors it was pulled by strong, young men over big hooks attached to the wall of the confectionery shop. However, it wasn’t the delicious delicacy that modern Salt Water Taffy has become. It was a porous, hard candy laid out while still warm in a thin layer, and broken into mouth-size bits with a silver confectioner’s hammer. The customers would savor a piece, slowly melting in their mouths, for a long period of time. Actually, the confection, when applied to a stick, evolved into all-day suckers.
The earliest usage of licorice was back in the first syllables of recorded time. Licorice lovers throughout history have included Pharaohs and Prophets. Generous supplies were discovered in Emperor King Tut’s tomb, while Egyptian hieroglyphics record the use of licorice in a popular beverage by men in the days when the bible was still being written!
What is licorice exactly? It comes from a botanical 4-5 foot scrub with blue or violet flowers, native to southern Europe and Asia. Its roots have two primary desirable qualities: roots can be 50 times sweeter than sugar, making it a useful component for some of our favorite candies; second, licorice has been sought after for its medicinal qualities. It has proven useful in the treatment of coughs and sore throats….
Huckleberries were a staple of the Native American long before the white man walked the Rocky Mountains. Medicine men cured stomach ailments and religious leaders cured spiritual disorders with this delectable berry. Today the choicest huckleberry patch is a much guarded secret. Man must compete with the grizzly, black bear, elk, deer, coyote just to name a few of the seekers of this most delicious berry.
We have many customers asking for this oddly-named candy although most of them are “of a certain age”. They are recalling sweet memories from their childhood and of their grandfathers sharing their prized stash of Horehound with them. Today, this candy is mostly found in an old-fashioned candy shop such as ours, or perhaps in your local pharmacy, next to the cough drops, as it is known more as a medicinal remedy than as a sweet.
It’s scientific name (Maarrubium vulgare) should give you a hint that the normally lozenge-shaped, hard candy, may be difficult to swallow. It is often coated in sugar, or corn syrup, to both keep it from sticking to the liner of its cooling tray and to give it a more pleasant initial taste. But the true bitterness of the horehound, which is a weed in its original form, quickly comes to bear on your unsuspecting taste senses!
Horehound is a member of the mint family, and its taste may remind you of mint, or of licorice, or even of root beer. It is made from the hardening of a herbal tea that is brewed from the plant’s (weed’s) white-colored leaves. Long known to relieve certain respiratory problems (asthma, sore throat, dry throat), horehound is also associated with helping with some digestive issues, primarily as an appetite stimulant and for relieving gas. However, as good as it may be for some nagging medical ailments, it also has the reputation of interfering with the body’s ability to absorb iron and is therefore strongly not recommended to be consumed by pregnant women.