Creativity Magazine

Red Wine Reduction with Pure Licorice

By Aristippos

sweet root/licorice IMG_2326[1]

Licorice is often seen as the one thing that clearly divides the human race into two types: those who love it and those who hate it. Bipartisan palates seem unknown. I always found myself in the second group. Only the bats from Haribo became a favorite product when my loved one introduced them to me. It is no wonder – no less than three hundred kinds are known to man.

A couple of days ago I was shown what seemed to be dried twigs and it did not last long until these would also become an important fraction of my latest coffee-pairing. These were in fact roots, known as sweet root, licorice root, licorice, gan zao, black sugar, sweet wood, sweet stalk, reglissa, lukrecja, alcaçuz, mulethi or lakritz. Botanically known as Glycyrrhiza glabra linaeus, this sweet root is not to be confused with the sweet root known as sweet flag, botanically the Acorus calamus linnaeus.

Known since the 13th century for its use as medicine to Asians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, it might just be the oldest candy known to humans. It has its origin in areas of the Mediterranean, in the European south, as well as in parts of Asia. But even today, throughout Japan it finds use in the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis.

Having one of these roots in my hand, I started my perception tour by putting one under my nostrils and the connection to anise was immediate. In its industrial usage, licorice is often diluted with anise seed oils, what reduces its production costs. The second perception – sweetness – came after scratching on it and grinding it with a fine grater. This is a very different sweetness to that of the sugar cane or sugar beet, but just as sweet to the tongue, although with less of the sugar intensity known from brown sugar. It contains, however, almost no fat.

Red Wine Reduction with pure Licorice

In my initial usage of this root, the bottom line was not the world of coffee per se, but the one of wine reductions – precisely the reds. Experienced individuals in the fields of chemistry and candy technology working with sweet root have come up with a great variety of uses, tastes and forms. Through my first try I see why. While reducing the wine, much more than taste development took place. At the end there was not only the density and residue I know from reducing wine, sugar and cinnamon, but there were some crystals and a sensation of having the tongue a bit tightened/twisted. Therefore, for the sake of a pleasant texture, but also to avoid a too intense licorice flavor, make sure you start with caution. The grated root looks like a gentle white powder, thanks to its soft yellowish hue, but it could work intense wonders.

I suggest a reduction using the following ingredients:

  • 1 liter red wine
  • 4 spoons of brown sugar (try what works best for you – remember the sweet root is sweet)
  • 1 coffee spoon sweet root (finely ground)
  • 2 coffee spoons ground coffee
  • small piece of cinnamon (not ground)
  • 3 apples

Prepare all the ingredients and put them in a pot that is high but not too big. The goal is to have a pot that keeps the liquid high enough to cover most of the apples. While cooking, keep pouring the fluid over the apples regularly and every 10 or 15 minutes turn the apples upside down and down side up alternately.

Red Wine Reduction with pure Licorice

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