Saturday, April 22, 2006

Droplovers convention

No, not a real one, rather an impromptu gathering.

I must confess that my last bounty haul from Typical Dutch Stuff is a little much, even for me.

Well, this weekend we have one of John's PhD students visiting. He's Moroccan, but grew up in Holland. I wasn't sure whether he'd like liqs, but when I carried the big box of drops into the lounge, his eyes lit up. Munching his way through a selection, he translated bits of the Oltimers' story for us. It has nothing to do with a hunt or with roedeer, but concerns three friends visiting a fairground when one of them—father of Dropmaker J. Douwenga—has an epiphany about 'Mildzoute Hindelooper Ruitjesdrop', apparently while locked inside a room.

The weather is great: during the last week or so, spring has suddenly arrived and the air is notably warmer, the sunshine brighter and all the plants are shooting up—even the butterflies are coming out. In short, perfect barbeque weather. This being England, these events can never be planned in advance, but we phoned up another of John's colleagues, a Dutchman who lives in near-by Reading and while his family was otherwise engaged, he agreed to come over on such short notice. While we were waiting for the BBQ to heat up, I showed him the box. He was chuffed; he tends to eat up all the drops he brings back from his native country within days and then goes without for months at a time. So much more remarkable that he spared me a whole pack of Waterwerken the last time he came over for a BBQ! Now the situation was reversed.

The story behind Oldtimers' Mildzoute Hindelooper Ruitjesdrop creator was actually that the Dropmaker's father—who limped a little, hence the 'hinderlooper'—got himself locked into a toilet for four hours and during that time not only thought up the recipe, but also the distinct shape of the drop—modelled on the convenience's window.

I still don't know where the roedeer comes in.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Top of the Lot

Almost all of the liqs I've ordered contain some liquorice powder—not ammonium chloride or sweetwood extracts but the actual magical combination of both. However, in most of them, it is watered down or cut with extra sugar or gum.

For the real thing—or at least as strong as I reckon it is legal to sell (to children)—you need to turn to the powder itself.

Coloured beige-brown by the addition of dextrose and starch, it looks innocent enough in its tin, despite the turbaned figure on the lid sticking out his tongue at you. I wonder what the story behind that is. All the online references to Zwart Wit Zout I can find are, unsurprisingly, in Dutch.

Once opened, ambient humidity will turn the stuff a sticky dark brown in a matter of days.

Dip in a finger and lick some of it. It will actually feel cool on your tongue. It almost seems to prickle. You won't as much taste this stuff as breathe in the fumes, which are somewhat reminiscent of the sharp smell of horse manure

For the dedicated lover of strong liquorice, there's nothig better.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Salty Shakers

New from Venco, these liqs have a strange shape—a bit like a raised triangle—and a divine taste with a peppery undertone, not far removed from the recently reviewed Oldtimers. In fact these sweets don't know whether they want to be salty or peppery with the word 'Droppeppers' written above the description 'salty shakers'. They do pack an almost chilli-like kick. And there is another strange undertone, reminiscent of the boiled aniseed candy which we could buy at our local town fair. At once thoroughly old-fashioned (in taste) and fashionably abstract (in shape), this will appeal to jaded liqs eaters who thought they'd tried everything.

One for seasoned veterans—my husband nearly gagged on it.


Sunday, April 09, 2006


In a recent comment, Ace said:

' The story of the [Swedish]Oldtimers is:
The recipe was discovered in an old book they found in the candyfactory. The book was used as a support for an old machine, and someone had put it under the machines "leg" (don't know the english word, sorry) to prevent it from tipping. There's a reason for the bow tie on the pastille also, I'm not sure but I think they put it there because of the old man who found the book. He used to wear a bow tie.
Best regards/
the swede'

Thanks, Ace—it's great that people who read this blog come up with little morsels like that, what a lovely story!

A similar story is told on the back of my Oldtimers' 'Mildzoute Hindelooper Ruitjesdrop'. Something about dropmaker J. Douwenga's father, his friend and (if I can glean this correctly) a roedeer which somehow led to the manufacture of these sweets. And they're delicious. The only thing that would increase my enjoyment even further is if I could read enough Dutch to understand the story behind them.

The drops are quite sweet, with both sugar and glucose syrup, but not as mild as they're made out; they pack a nice, peppery note which combines well with their soft texture and sweetness. Not one for beginners, but salty liqs' 'oldtimers' will love them!


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Too much of a good thing!

I've overeaten on liquorice!

Need to take a break for a few days. More reviews next week or so.