The Basics: Sweet Treats, Ginger and Horehound Drops.

Ginger is a versatile herb, and its utility is not limited to the kitchen – its medicinal properties are seemingly endless. Honeyed Ginger and Ginger Snaps are pleasant ways for you to treat colds and flu’s, encourage sweating, ease morning sickness and help relieve all sorts of painful conditions, such as headaches and menstrual cramps. Ginger also improves the functioning of the heart and circulatory system, warms cold hands and feet, kills intestinal worms and aids liver function. Since I love the taste of ginger, I always double the amount called form in the Ginger Snap recipe.

honeyed gingerHoneyed Ginger

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger

About 1/2 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon anise extract {optional}

1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract {optional}

Fill a clean jar with ginger. Heat honey to liquefy, then remove from heat. Add extracts to honey and pour over ginger. Stir with a knife or chopstick to eliminate all air bubbles. When done, the honey should cover the ginger. After about 3 weeks, it is ready to eat. Stored in the refrigerator, it will last at least a year.

gingersnaps425Ginger Snaps

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses

2 teaspoons vinegar

1 beaten egg

2 cups pastry flour {I use whole wheat}

2 teaspoons finely grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 325 F. Combine the oil, brown sugar, molasses and vinegar, stir in egg, then add the rest of the ingredients. Form the dough into 3/4-inch balls. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes. As the balls meltdown during the baking, the cookies develop the characteristic crinkled surface.

Horehound candy was once very popular. Originally, it was used as a cough drop for sore throats. As late as the 1950’s, these drops could be found in any pharmacy. In time, people decided that they liked its bittersweet taste even when they were not sick. Horehound drops eventually found their way into candy stores. Since this is really a candy-making recipe, a candy thermometer will come in handy. It will show you when the mixture has reached the proper temperature to harden. Remember that horehound is very bitter – I like to soften the flavor with peppermint. Once you get the hang of making herb candy, try replacing the horehound with other herbs.

HOREHOUND-COUGH-DROPS-3Old-Fashioned Horehound Drops

2 ounces dried horehound leaves {or 6 ounces fresh leaves}

3 cups very hot water

3 1/2 pounds brown sugar

2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Pour very hot water over the horehound. Steep 30 minutes, while keeping on low heat. Strain. Add sugar and dissolve. Bring to a boil and continue boiling until mixture reaches 295 F {the temperature for brittle candy}. Add peppermint, then drop mixture quickly on a buttered board, half a teaspoon at a time, or pour into a shallow, buttered pan and cut into squares before it completely hardens.