Friday, December 19, 2014

Horehound Cough Drops

Don’t you just love it when what you need is there when you need it?  The universe at work.  My husband came down with this weird cough and I had just noticed that the horehound in the garden was still green and vibrant.  Not sure how that happened in mid-December where there has already been snow and freezing weather, but not getting around to cleaning up that part of the garden paid off.

So I made him some horehound cough drops, something I have always wanted to try.  They came out great, now I just need more people with coughs J  Here’s the recipe, if you have given them a try or have any tips, let me know.

There are many recipes for horehound cough drops and I decided to keep it simple with just horehound, ginger and honey:
Horehound – 2 cups fresh (or 1 cup dried)
Ginger – a small finger, peeled and sliced
Water – 1 cup water to each cup herbs
Honey – 3 cups (1 ½ cups honey to 1 cup “tea”)
Cream of tartar – ½ tsp

Steep the horehound and ginger in the water, I used 2 cups of fresh horehound to 2 ½ cups water, allowing for some water evaporation.  Let steep 30 minutes, strain.  I had a little over 2 cups of “tea”.   Add “tea” to a large pot and add the honey and cream of tartar.  

Boil until mixture reaches 300 degrees, use a candy thermometer to ensure the mixture reaches candy stage.  Grease a flat pan with sides with butter or use cooking spray.  Pour mixture into pan and spread out.  Let cool.

 To make the cough drops I tried 3 different methods – balls, cut squares and breaking the candy into pieces.

1.       Balls – When the mixture cools to a point where it can be handled, roll a small amount of mixture into a ball.  Grease hands with butter so avoid sticking.  You need to work fast as the mixture gets hard pretty quickly.  Place on wax paper to cool completely and harden.

2.       Squares – When the mixture cools to the point it is like salt water taffy, roll it out and cut with a sharp knife into squares.  Place on wax paper to cool completely and harden.  Of the 3 methods, I thought this was the easiest and came out the best.

3.       Break into pieces – while the mixture is in the pan and it has cooled to the taffy consistency, score the mixture into bite size pieces.  When totally hardened, remove from pan and break into pieces.  I found I could easily remove the candy from the pan but that it didn’t crack at all like I had scored it.  It was difficult to know the exact best time to score it, I tried at several points.  So this came out as chunks of cough drops.

Store the finished cough drops in an airtight container, I lined a tin with wax paper to store them.  This recipe made a lot of cough drops, probably at least 75 in various sizes (and chunks).  I’m not sure of the shelf life, will need to do some more research to figure that out.

A few tips from the experience:
The mixture boils up quite a bit, I had to change pots twice to allow it to boil rapidly enough to get to the high temperature and not boil over the sides of the pot.  So use a very big pot.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the cream of tartar is.  I thought it was to help keep the mixture from foaming when boiling, but I had quite a bit of foam when it boiled and still some when I poured it into the pan.  I tried adding some butter to the mixture to stop the foaming as that helps when making jellies, but it didn’t seem to make a difference either.

Get a candy thermometer.  I didn’t have one so had to do continually testing to see when it got to the candy stage and eventually just guessed.   It would have helped quite a bit.

Experiment, next time I will try adding some other herbs, maybe rosemary and/or thyme too?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coriander Harvest Time

It's only recently that I started using coriander in my cooking and I've found out I love the flavor.  So this year I decided to harvest my own.

Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, Coriandrum sativum.  Lots of people don't know that they come from the same plant, and in the US we tend to call the green leaves cilantro and the seed of the plant coriander.  In England the leaves are called coriander also so if you have a recipe make sure you know whether it is referring to the leaf or seed.

So on this beautiful Fall day with the trees in all their glory I basked in the glow of the red, orange and gold shining on the garden and harvested the coriander.

In order to have the seeds you need to let some of your cilantro bolt and go to seed.  That's not difficult, and if you're like me the cilantro seems to bolt when I'm not looking!  So let a few plants flower and then the flowers will turn to seeds.  You want to make sure that the seeds are brown, as the picture above, not green when you harvest them.  The green seeds will be bitter and also contain too much moisture to store for any length of time successfully.

I like the paper bag method of harvesting seeds and use the same method for coriander that I do with dill.  Once the seeds are brown, I cut the stems and place them seeds and all in a brown paper sandwich bag.  You can use a larger brown shopping bag if you like or a plastic bag, whatever works for you.  I then shake the stems and the seeds pretty much just fall off.  For those that don't, I just rub them on the stem and they fall off.

Coriander seeds are small and easily drop all over the place.  I like to shake the stem just a little bit over the garden when I cut it so the seeds will self-sow for more cilantro plants next year.  The harvesting can be a bit messy so who knows where the cilantro will show up?

I also save a few seeds for planting next year, just in case the self-sowing doesn't happen but I usually find cilantro and dill popping up all over the garden in the Spring which I love.

So plan to harvest your own coriander next year!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

World Wide Fire Cider Making Day Feb 2nd

I wrote the article linked below for Spirit of Change Magazine about the current controversy going on about the trademarking of the term Fire Cider.  In honor of this, a World Wide Fire Cider Making Day is being held Feb 2nd - make up a batch to help you through this cold winter! 

Click here to read the article:   Keep Fire Cider Free

Update:  Here is the Fire Cider my daughter and I made on Sunday for World Wide Fire Cider Making Day.  It was fun and came out great, need to let it sit for a few weeks and then we'll be drinking it up.  If you made some, share a pic!