Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cough Drops

More proof, if any were needed, that I am a hippy loon.

I have a cold. I didn't feel like walking to the store. I made cough drops.

So they're just hard candy; what did you think cough drops were, anyway? I needed something to keep my spirits up.

1/4 lemon- I keep mine frozen in little slices, I never seem to use a whole one before it shrivels up and goes green with penicillin.

About a dozen mint leaves

1/3 cup white sugar, or thereabouts

About a teaspoon of honey. Mine had a chunk of comb in it, I figured the wax would help get the sugar un-stuck from the mold at the end, but I'll never know if I was right.

Put the sugar in a small saucepan with about half a cup of water. The exact amount isn't critical, it all gets boiled off anyway. All you need is enough to suspend the sugar to start with, and create some steam at the beginning. You do need a close-fitting lid for the pan, though. Turn the heat up to medium, stir it around a bit, then put the lid on. You're waiting for it to boil.

Meanwhile, microwave your lemon, mint and honey in a small bowl until the lemon has gone all gooshy and all the juice has come out. Squeeze out & discard the rind, leave the rest alone for now.

Get a glass of ice water and set it on the counter near your sugar pot. Put a sheet of tinfoil on a cookie sheet and crimp the edges up a tad. That's your candy mold. You can run an oiled papertowel over the tinfoil if you want, but I didn't. Also, you need a longish metal or wooden spoon. NO PLASTIC! I don't care what those rubbery things say on them, I don't trust 'em. The melting point of table sugar is 365 degrees! Ouchy. Moving on.

When the sugar boils, you can see steam shooting out from under the lid at a good clip. That's important, because inside the pot, condensation is forming and running down the sides, washing any leftover sugar crystals down into the mix. There is some very good scientific explanation for why a stray sugar crystal will make your candy mix go all hard and grainy before you want it to, It has words like "supersaturation" and "seed points" but the only thing I can remember is that it means "let the candy pot steam itself for a while."

Not too long, though. A couple minutes should do it. Take a look at the mix- it should be thickening up. Here's how to check to see if it's done: dip your spoon into the candy, then into the cup of ice water. You want it to form a leathery bead of sugar on the spoon when it hits the water.

Once you get to that point, strain the honey lemon mix into the sugar and stir it up. There will be some vigorous boiling, so look out. After that, the candy will rapidly begin to brown. Do the spoon test a couple more times, this time you want the sugar to form a hard ball in the water. When it does, pour it out onto your tinfoil.

You can either wait until the candy is dead cold and break it up, or do what I did, which was to wait until it was cool enough to handle and cut it into squares with oiled kitchen scissors. I recommend packing it in tupperware on layers of wax paper pretty much the second it's completely cool. It attracts moisture, and will go sticky very fast.

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