Whether it is the dead of winter or the high life of summer, colds and allergies seem to pop up out of nowhere and “catch” us completely off guard. Hand-in-hand with these seasonal terrors come the dreaded cough and there are two ways you can fight cold's comrade-in-arms----- with either over the counter cough drops ----- or ones that you can make yourself.
Make yourself, you ask? Why not! it's easy and many of the ingredients within these little soldiers can be found right in your own kitchen. Sugar, corn syrup and water gently brought to a robust boil till they reach what is known as the “hard crack” stage will give you the "medium." The only secret to a successful drop is to use a tasty and simple combination of herbs "steeped" in the water before adding it to the sugar-syrup. This wonderful cough relieving tea along with your "dry" ingredients" are all you need to make your own natural cough confection-ators.
Some herbs that are found in many of the other natural cough drops you find on the market that you may want to try alone or in combination are; Coltsfoot, Korean Licorice Mint (easy to grow; seeds are available from Seeds of Change), thyme, slippery elm, horehound, comfrey leaf, hyssop, marsh mallow and common mullein, to name a few. Many of these herbs are perennial so you will have them for your own personal “medicine cabinet” year after year. Use the leaves only of these herbs either singly or in combination. It helps to try them out as a tea first, that way you know which herbs will taste best in your cough drops. About 2-3 tsp. of herb to 1 1/2 cups boiling water ought give you the concentration that you need; let steep till cool.
Here’s a tried-and-true hard candy recipe, straight from the pages of Cooking for American Homemakers. I have used this gem for many years for lollypop making and it is first rate for making the “medium:”
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water (herbal tea)
vegetable coloring (optional)
Mix sugar, herbal tea and corn syrup and cook over low heat stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture boils. Continue boiling without stirring until a small amount is very brittle when dropped into cold water. Wash away crystals from side of pan with a damp cloth. Cook slowly at end so that the syrup will not discolor. Remove from the heat and add color. Either drop quickly from the tip of a spoon onto a greased surface or into prepared hard candy molds. Allow to harden and cool completely before removing. You can roll them in powdered sugar and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper for storage.
For gift giving, why not add a personal touch by pressing some of the fresh herbs between waxed paper and use to decorate or wrap your gift box. Add a nice tag listing the herbs that you used for a professional look.