Introduction: Cough Drops

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Try this homemade cough drops recipe the next time you need something to soothe your sore throat.  Carefully selected herbs also make these great as natural cold and flu remedies.

After getting knocked out by an H1N1 vaccine, I had plenty of time to consider just what I was looking for in a lozenge.  I wanted something herbal and not overly potent, not too sweet, but tasty enough to finish. 

You can make these with any flavor or coloring you prefer - a blend of your favorite sickness-busting herbs is a great way to go.  I'll suggest a few in the next step.  But if you don't have access to such things, or you just want results NOW, consider what you might already have on hand!

Making hard candy requires sugar (or a lot of crazy chemical sugar substitutes), and flavor.   That's about it.  So why not take some of the yummy herbal blend teas I so love and stock up for times of sickness like these, and lozenge-ify those?  A perfect cup of tea in a long-lasting lozenge.  Perfect!

Step 1: Ingredients

I made these as simply as possible with herbal tea and sugar.  That's really all you need.

But if you want to get fancy, you can use a blend of sugar or substitutes, food coloring, additional flavors, and custom blend your own herbs.

Some great herbs (and their uses) for lozenges are:
  • Horehound - (be careful - this stuff is strong!) pain reliever, stimulates digestion
  • Echinacea - best before full onset of cold, anti-bacterial + blood cleanser
  • Peppermint - expectorant, decongestant and mild pain reliever
  • Eucalyptus - relieves congestion
  • Camphor - relieves congestion
  • Ginger - pain relieving, antiseptic and antioxidant
  • Goldenseal - antiseptic and immune stimulant
  • Licorice - anti-viral, chest and throat soother
  • Sage - good for sore throats
  • Fennugreek - expectorant
  • Juniper - relieves congestion
  • Yarrow - reduces fevers and inflammation
I also used powdered sugar to make my candy molds, and to toss them in so they wouldn't be so sticky.  If you have candy molds, these work just as well!

Finally, a well-calibrated candy thermometer makes this task almost effortless!  To make sure it's accurate, check the temperature of a cup of boiling water to be certain it registers 212oF (100oC).  If it doesn't, make note of the difference.

Step 2: Brew a Strong Tea

Whether you're using prepackaged tea, or your own blend of herbs, you'll want to make a strong brew.  I found that two cups of water to four tea bags works well. You can, of course, divide that in half. 

Steep the herbs/tea in boiling water for 15 minutes. 

Step 3: Prepare Candy Mold

If you have a candy mold that you'd like to use, you're good to go!  Give them a quick spray of cooking oil, and get started.

If you don't, powdered sugar or even cornstarch will make a great substitute.  I started out by trying to make little mounds of candy on waxed paper, without any kind of mold formation at all.  Fast-forward to FAIL.

Then I remembered Mongpoovian's technique in making Chocolate Liquor Cordials which I had immediately filed away in my mind as "too time consuming!"  Well, how wrong I was.

I used powdered sugar instead of starch for two reasons.  One, I knew I wanted to lightly coat them in sugar once they were done.  Two (and more importantly) it's what I had on hand.   I didn't dry it the way Mongpoovian's Instructable demonstrates because I didn't read that part. 

It was super fun to make these molds by pouring powdered sugar into a pie pan, flattening it out with my hand, then using the bottom of a food coloring bottle to make indentations.  That was it! 

The best part is that the candy was slightly repelled by the sugar and actually flowed into each of the divots on its own, which is worth the price of admission just to watch!

Step 4: Make Candy

Wash away crystals from the side of your pan with a damp cloth.Add tea to sugar and boil, using the following ratio.

1 part liquid : 1 part sugar

That may seem like a lot of sugar, but it's less than half what you'd find in a basic hard candy recipe.  You can add more if you prefer a sweeter finish.  But using less will make it difficult to reach the hard crack stage necessary for a good,  solid lozenge.

Again, you can combine your sugar sources. I made one batch with brown sugar, and one with a white sugar / agave nectar blend.  

Each combination will take different cooking times, so a good candy thermometer will help you out immensely.

  • Add your sugar to your tea and heat over med-high.
  • Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Bring to a boil and DO NOT STIR AGAIN.
  • Wash away crystals from the side of your pan with a damp brush or cloth.
  • Once candy reaches 300oF (150oC), remove from heat.
  • Add colors and flavorings (opt) and stir.

Step 5: Mold Candy

Pour your finished mixture into your prepared molds.  (If you're using the powdered sugar technique, prepare to be entranced by what you witness.)

Allow to set until firm.  If it's humid or rainy outside, this may take longer.  Putting them in the fridge will help.

When it's time to demold the lozenges, stir them around in the powdered sugar and sift away excess.  Keep in a sealed container or wrap in cellophane.

Once you try this, you'll want to try it again and again.  I was instantly hooked!  I plan on trying more and more potent concoctions in the future.  These lozenges are great for what ails you, but are also a tasty treat when you're already feeling fine.