Wellness

The 2-Ingredient Elixir That Fuels Cold, Wintry Days

Perfect for warding off itchy throats and oncoming colds.

January 17, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham

As of this writing, there are a number of people sneezing and coughing around me. It's winter, folks, and it's not going anywhere for at least a few more months.

During these cold, dark days when you immediately jump into loungewear and huddle under the blankets the minute you get home (just me?), here's a soothing elixir to keep you warmer than your trusty worn-in sweatshirt. The best part? It's only two ingredients, and you likely already have them (if not, they're super easy to pick up on your way home from work today).

Korean honey ginger tea, or saenggangcha, is a relic from my childhood. A glass jar of saenggangcha (much like this one) always had a spot in the fridge door, usually alongside a jar of Korean citron tea, or yujacha, which greatly resembles orange marmalade. Both caffeine-free "teas" were called upon for year-round duty: whisked into hot water during the winter, and enjoyed as a cold beverage over ice during the sultry summer days.

When I started living on my own, I didn't always keep these jars in the fridge; instead, I'd fashion simple DIY home remedies. I'd steep coins of ginger in hot water before stirring in a heaping spoonful of honey to recreate a quick saenggangcha. (Unfortunately, yuja, also known as Japanese yuzu, are not readily available here stateside to make yujacha on the fly.) I realized, though, that this quicker approach didn't quite yield the same deep, comforting qualities that saenggangcha provided, so I set off to find a better homemade solution. I didn't have to go far before finding that my beloved Korean YouTuber, Maangchi, already had a version, upon which I'd tweak to my own tastes.

In her recipe, Maangchi calls for equal parts pureed ginger and honey, which she mixes and stores in the fridge, or decants into adorably cute jars for the perfect wellness gifts. She tops her drinks with pine nuts for garnish, a truly traditional Korean touch. I prefer my saenggangcha less sweet, so I usually dial down the honey in my ratio and occasionally add a dash of ground cinnamon for added oomph. A big squeeze of lemon immediately brings on sunshine-y feelings.

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Top Comment:
“I make golden milk a lot for fighting off oncoming colds, i usually simmer plant based milk (usually coconut) on the stove to which i add fresh microplanned ginger and turmeric root, powdered cinnamon, dash of pepper (for the curcumin) finished off with some fresh raw honey! I make it fresh every time, but i wonder if i could make a "golden Milk" paste of ginger, cinnamon and turmeric (and pepper!) in honey and keep that in the fridge to add to a cup of milk i simply steamed in the microwave? GENIUS! ”
— Frederique M.
Comment

I'm also not as exacting and usually let the ginger root take the lead: After I choose a fresh knob (avoid the ones that are too wrinkly!), I scrape off the skin, and hand-grate it on a Japanese grater, like this one (you can also just take it for a spin in the food processor). I then add the ground ginger, juice and all, into a small jar with a few heaping tablespoons of runny honey. The amount varies depending on the freshness (heat) of the ginger, and the sweetness of your honey. Store in the fridge and stir in a spoonful into your hot water anytime you feel a tickle in your throat, or can sense something bigger coming on.

(By the way, it's great on a piece of thickly slathered buttered toast or a warm dinner roll—another delicious reason to try it!)

Do you have a favorite homemade elixir? Let us know below!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jana Everett
    Jana Everett
  • Frederique Matteau L.
    Frederique Matteau L.
  • Joni
    Joni
  • Carol Budziszewski
    Carol Budziszewski
  • msmely
    msmely
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Hana Asbrink

Written by: Hana Asbrink

Hana is the senior lifestyle editor at Food52.

20 Comments

Jana E. February 5, 2019
I've made and am really enjoying the strong flavor of this, but am perplexed about the chunks of ginger. I've been sort of stirring the mug every time I take a sip to be sure to get some ginger bits in? Do you strain it after mixing it? I used a microplane on the ginger which does produce a nice paste but still results in bits that sink to the bottom.
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 5, 2019
Hi Jana,

Love hearing that you enjoy the recipe! Yes, the ginger pulp is definitely more obvious than ginger slices would be; if you don't care for it, please feel free to strain the "tea" into your mug. Otherwise I've found that letting a hot mug cool off gives it enough time for most of the ginger to settle. (I also don't mind eating ginger, so please suit to your tastes). Thank you again for reading and commenting!
 
Jana E. February 6, 2019
Thanks! Helpful to know I'm not missing anything and the intent isn't necessarily to eat all the ginger :)
 
Frederique M. January 25, 2019
I make golden milk a lot for fighting off oncoming colds, i usually simmer plant based milk (usually coconut) on the stove to which i add fresh microplanned ginger and turmeric root, powdered cinnamon, dash of pepper (for the curcumin) finished off with some fresh raw honey! I make it fresh every time, but i wonder if i could make a "golden Milk" paste of ginger, cinnamon and turmeric (and pepper!) in honey and keep that in the fridge to add to a cup of milk i simply steamed in the microwave? GENIUS!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. February 5, 2019
This sounds so delicious, thanks for sharing Frederique!
 
Joni January 24, 2019
Can’t wait to try this , sounds wonderful . I’ve been boiling water and adding sliced ginger and simmering ten add some honey. Think I like this idea better.
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
Hi Joni - hope you enjoy it! Yes, that's pretty much what I had been doing too, but you'll see that this version delivers a bigger kick (that is not unwelcome :)). Please report back!
 
Carol B. January 20, 2019
How long does this keep in the fridge? Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
Hi Carol - with the high sugar content from the honey, this keeps very well in the fridge. The amount I make gets used pretty quickly (within a month), but I bet it would fare well for a few... try with a small amount and then adjust to your needs. Thank you for reading!
 
msmely January 18, 2019
maangchi is OG, so many good recipes! such a good youtube channel to subscribe to if you like korean food!!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
I 110% agree with you, msmely! Thank you for reading!
 
Heather G. January 18, 2019
I learned to make "fever soup" from an Italian friend.
1 head garlic minced and sautéed in about 2 Tbl good olive oil and a good pinch of salt till softened
add 1 head cauliflower in flowerets, and stir till combined
cover with water or unsalted chicken broth, another pinch of salt, and simmer until cauliflower is tender
add 2 handfuls of orzo (or small pasta) and simmer until tender
season to taste with salt and pepper
serve with crusty bread and topped with parmesan
Awesome soup during a cold or following a stomach bug...
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
This sounds SO delicious, Heather! I can't wait to try it, thanks for sharing. :)
 
Heather G. January 25, 2019
you are welcome Hana...it is honestly a family favorite! Simple and soothing.
 
Eric K. January 18, 2019
I feel better already!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
Aw, great. :)
 
HalfPint January 17, 2019
I’ve told my friends about citron tea but there’s been so much resistance which I don’t understand. What’s so wrong with marmalade tea? I know the same people wouldn’t think twice about gin & jam cocktails.
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
What a great point, HalfPint! And that gets me thinking... maybe I need to just add in some grated ginger to a spoonful or orange marmalade next time as a shortcut? ;)
 
Emma L. January 17, 2019
I've had a jar of this in my fridge ever since you first told me about it, Hana! Need to make a new batch soon...so good!
 
Author Comment
Hana A. January 25, 2019
Yay! Such a great winter staple, right?