Today was day two with sick toddlers. Leeloo started feeling bad and got a fever yesterday. By this afternoon, Monkey was also starting to feel a little toasty and had developed a cough that was progressively worsening. So far, I only have a headache. Who knows. Everyone I know is sick with the flu or some respiratory thing. If I knew who they got it from, I might know a bit more about what to expect, but we’re in wait-and-see mode. Fun stuff.
Anyway, Leeloo doesn’t mind Children’s Tylenol, but she hates cough syrup with a passion. Monkey will take neither unless we hold her down and pour it down her throat, so she’ll be dealing with this unmedicated unless it gets too bad. So, two kids with horrible coughs that hate cough syrup. Not great. I decided to look for something else, dug around in my Apothecary board on Pinterest, and found a Homemade Cough Drop recipe by Elise at Frugal Farm Wife.
It was basically herbal tea and honey cooked into hard candy drops. I didn’t have exactly what was in the recipe, but I improvised, and despite also burning the honey a bit, THE DROPS WORK AND MY KIDS WILL TAKE THEM.
If you want to try them, use her recipe. I’m just talking about what I changed in case you’re in a similar situation.
Elise’s recipe called for peppermint, chamomile, cinnamon, and ginger, though she said peppermint tea and chamomile tea were fine. Since the first part of the recipe is to basically make a strong tea, I just went with it and added ginger tea too since I didn’t have ginger root. I had a cinnamon stick, but forgot to let it steep with the tea. Oops. I’m sure it would have been better, but I just added a tiny pinch of ground cinnamon to the tea/honey mixture.
The next part involves cooking the tea/honey mixture until it reaches hard-crack stage (300ºF). I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I used this amazing guide from The Spruce which explains how to test for hard-crack stage in candy without a candy thermometer. It worked great.
I burned the sugar in my honey just a touch at the end, but that wasn’t related to anyone’s instructions. I just didn’t stir fast enough for about 5 seconds of the whole process. Burning the sugar is super easy to do at those temperatures, by the way, if you’ve never made candy before. It didn’t affect the functionality of the drops and the texture is still very nice. They just have a little bit more of a bitter flavor than I would have preferred. I added orange zest on the outside of the candy as I spread it out to cool, and the flavor could be improved but it’s not bad.
I intended to roll it out and shape it, but just as I was ready to start rolling, there was a toddler crisis of some variety, and it set up too hard. So…I don’t have cough drops, I have cough shards.
They look a little like beef jerky, IMO, but they taste like strong minty honey and orange. I’m trying a new batch soon and will hopefully 1. not burn the candy and 2. actually get to roll it out and shape it. I like my candies and things to look like I want them to look, so I’m slightly annoyed by these, but you can’t really do a damn thing about toddler timing. Plus, considering that these “cough shards” work and the kids will actually suck on them, I don’t give a fuck what they look like. Bonus point: if you hate the way the stuff tastes alone, the pieces can be dissolved in hot tea to take the edge off a cough.
Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a medical doctor. Nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I feel comfortable giving my kids honey (they’re almost 3) and the herbs in the teas. If you don’t, don’t try it. If my kids get sicker, we will go to the doctor and get medication, but until then, I’ll keep making cough drops they won’t immediately spit out.