Amerelli has been making liquirizia from their base in the Calabria region (the sunkissed 'toe' of Italy) since the 16th century. For eleven generations, the family have transformed the roots of the liquorice plant into naturally glossy, inky-dark confections. Calabria is one of the best areas in the world for growing liquorice. Its combination of hot, dry weather and fertile plains sees huge swathes of the region covered in the pretty yellow flowers of the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant. But it's the woody roots of the plant that contain the bittersweet, naturally salty juice rich in glycyrrhizic acid – the compound that gives liquorice its distinct flavour. Calabrian-grown liquorice has been found to contain much higher levels of glycyrrhizic acid than liquorice grown elsewhere – a result of the region's mineral-rich clay soils. When the Amerelli family developed their unique way of extracting and transforming the plants' juice into pure black liquorice, the intensity of flavour was beyond what anybody had before experienced. And the rest, as they say, is history… Building on his father’s success, Clemente realised they needed a space to continue their preparation and preservation of the local produce. Demand continued to grow, so in 1971 they opened a small factory in Borgo San.Dalmazzo where they began work on an even wider range of local products. Everything from creams and sauces to antipasti and seasonings. All, of course, with the all-important porcini and truffles remaining centre stage. Today, the business remains in the Inaudi family, run by Clemente and his two sons Emiliano and Davide.
The Amerelli family have been 'officially' making liquorice in Rossano, Calabria, since 1731, when they built their now famous concio, or factory (be sure to visit their museum when you're next in southern Italy). And yet records show that the family had been making liquorice since at least the 16th century, using far more laborious techniques. Liquorice root has been held in esteem throughout history, prized for its intense flavour and therapeutic power. Alexander the Great gave it to his troops to bolster their energy on long marches, and it's been part of Chinese medicine for well over 5000 years. The ancient Greeks and Romans both adored liquorice for its unique medicinal properties. Indeed, it's from the Greek word glukurrhiza – meaning 'sweet root' – that we get the name Glycyrrhiza glabra. But perhaps no one understands liquorice quite as well as the Amerellis. Eleven generations (maybe more!) of the Calabrian family have been making this unique confection. Production starts by grinding the liquorice plants' roots to extract their juice, then carefully boiling this down into a thick, glossy paste. Once cooled, the paste is formed into the company's signature spezzata, rombetti and favette shapes, ready to be sold in their iconic packaging.
Not only is Amerelli liquorice a joy to eat, but the company has become famous the world over for their iconic little tins. These pretty metal boxes – the perfect size and shape for carrying liquorice pieces comfortably in your pocket – have ensured Amerelli's 'pure black' liquorice has spread far beyond its Calabrian roots. From manual labourers to soldiers, no self-respecting Calabrian would go far without a tin of spezzata liquorice to fortify their strength and keep coughs and colds at bay. The beautifully designed tins travelled far and wide an ingenious calling card for the artisan Calabrian liquorice brand – which became a beacon of quality the world over. In fact, Liquirizia di Calabria was afforded it very own PDO protection in 2011, meaning its prestige and reputation will be preserved long into the future.