Warning: this licorice contains ammonium chloride -- you might grow to like it (Courtesy of David Hammond)

This evening, in my guise as a mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, I stopped by Merz Apothecary in the Palmer House and got a bunch of licorice.


In the bunch was Sara’s Sweet European Licorice Double Salt, a product of Holland.


On the way home, I dropped one in my mouth and almost spit it out.  It was a super saline wallop and slowly gave way to the clear and distinct tang of ammonia.


The packaging promises “Salty and Hard,” but this lozenge (I don’t think it can be reasonably called “candy”), though very salty, is soft and contains ammonium chloride in what seems to be greater quantities than the actual licorice.


Salt with licorice is not that uncommon (it works well with the natural sweetness of the root), but as I sat on the Green Line sucking away, I felt like I was responding to a dare, doing something I really hadn’t oughta. There’s something within us that rebels against the taste of ammonia, which is reminiscent of rotten flesh.


Then, when I got home, I had another. Then another. Unnerving and oddly satisfying.


Later, I stopped by Marion Street Cheese Market and gave a lozenge of SS’s ELDS to Eric Larson. At first, he liked it, all the salt…and then it hit him.


ERIC: What is that flavor I can’t describe it…?


ME: You might recognize it from old cheese, or bad fish….


ERIC: What is it?!


ME: Ammonium.


ERIC: Ahh, no, I don’t want this in my mouth. (runs to spit out)


On first try, 4 of 4 people (including me) have spit out. Tonight, I just had one without thinking. Could that be a good thing?


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David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...