Whether it’s the height of winter or the height of summer, colds and allergies seem to appear out of nowhere and “catch” us completely off guard. Hand-in-hand with these seasonal terrors comes the dreaded cough, and there are two ways to fight the cold’s comrade-in-arms: with over-the-counter cough drops, or with the ones you can make. yourself.
You ask yourself? Why not! It’s easy and many of the ingredients for these little soldiers can be found in your own kitchen. Gently boiled sugar, corn syrup, and water until 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 “soaked” in the water before adding it to the sugar syrup. This wonderful cough relief tea along with its “dry” ingredients are all you need to make your own natural cough treats.
Some herbs found in many of the other natural cough drops on the market that you may want to try alone or in combination are; Coltsfoot, Korean Regalice 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 only the leaves of these herbs, either alone or in combination. It helps to taste them as a tea first, that way you know which herbs will taste best in your cough drops. About 2-3 tsp. of grass to 1 1/2 cups of boiling water should give you the concentration you need; let stand until 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 to make lollipops and it is top notch for making the “medium”:
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup water (herbal tea)
vegetable coloring (optional)
Mix together the sugar, herbal tea, and corn syrup and simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to boil without stirring until a small amount is very brittle when dropped into cold water. Wash the crystals from the sides of the pan with a damp cloth. Cook slowly last so the syrup doesn’t discolor. Remove from heat and add color. 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 them in plastic wrap or wax paper for storage.
For gifts, why not add a personal touch by pressing some of the fresh herbs between the waxed paper and use them to decorate or wrap your gift box. Add a nice label listing the herbs you used to give it a professional look.