They look like Pontefract cakes … but what’s this I read:
Haribo! Someone tell me it’s a nightmare and I’m going to wake up. It’s not that I have anything against Haribo, if they stick to their Goldbären and Weingummi and Colorado and even liquorice snails. But these ‘Pontefract cakes’ (from the UK) have an inauthentic uniform gelatinous quality and don’t hit quite the right flavour. True, the real thing can easily get too hard, but can they deprive us of the pleasure of hitting upon a fresh box, with that quality of being almost leathery and yet friable at the same time.
Haribo says on its website that it acquired a majority share in Dunhills in 1972 and the rest in 1994 and then:
New recipes and manufacturing methods helped to improve product quality. HARIBO brought new recipes, as well as gelatine manufacturing technology from Germany, which greatly improved the product quality.
Well, let’s just say it made it more gelatinous. Improved, indeed!
Note the rather poor stamp on the sweets: ‘Haribo original’, and a picture of Pontefract Castle. ‘Original’, my foot!
But thank heavens, Wilkinson’s are still around. See The Sugar Boy:
These are made by Wilkinsons who along with Dunhill (now owned by Haribo) are the only remaining manufacturers from the many there used to be in Pontefract. This is a drier, thicker cake than the Dunhill version, each has its loyal fans so try both varieties and decide for yourself.
Here’s more information from Wakefield Council. I read that John Betjeman wrote a poem called ‘The liquorice fields of Pontefract’, and Harold Shipman started his career there. I actually learned it was pronounced Pumfret, but I now gather that is the way it is pronounced if it is spelt differently.
She cast her blazing eyes on me
And plucked a licorice leaf;
I was her captive slave and she
My red-haired robber chief.
But I don’t want to be too narrow-minded, so I may take up Andrew’s suggestion in German Joys of buying a mixed packet of Dutch liquorice (or licorice, as he spells it). Here’s the online shop he recommends.