Author: Lily Mazzarella
If you've never tasted fire cider before, you're in for a treat. This zesty, delicious vinegar preparation straddles the line between food and medicine, and has been used for centuries by grandmothers and traditional herbalists alike to ward off contagion, break up congestion, open the airways, thin secretions, enhance circulation, and stimulate digestion. And making it is FUN – it feels like a good dose of kitchen magic. Fire cider is the antidote to all things cold, damp, and stagnant.
While there is no set recipe for FC, there are a few generally agreed upon ingredients: garlic, onion, ginger, hot peppers, horseradish, apple cider vinegar, and raw honey (if this sounds like a good Bloody Mary additive, well, you're right!). That said, there are endless permutations of this acetum (medicinal vinegar preparation), and you can adjust ingredients based on palate and desired effect.
For example, do you need help raising core body temperature, so your body can better fight viral incursion? Add more ginger and cayenne. Extra thick congestion? Horseradish goes a long way here. Or a tendency towards secondary bacterial infection of the lungs or sinuses after a cold? Beef up the garlic and turmeric.
A few ground rules:
If you don't like or don't tolerate an ingredient, leave it out!
The recipe can be adjusted for heat and sweet.
If you can't find a fresh ingredient, use dried or if need be, omit.
All ingredients preferably should be organic, but citrus peel has to be!
You really do need to use apple cider vinegar – it is the least "industrial" of common vinegars and carries its own health benefits.
Local, raw honey is preferred, as it confers its medicinal properties.
(based on a quart-sized jar)
10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small-medium onion, chopped into 1/2-1 inch pieces
1/2 cup grated horseradish root
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger (dried ginger is significantly hotter than fresh; use 1-2 tsps if fresh is unavailable)
1-2 tablespoon(s) grated turmeric (or 1-3 teaspoon(s) dried)
Zest and juice of 1-2 lemon(s) (you can also just sliver them!)
1 jalapeno or serrano chile, slivered and seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (you may want to know your cayenne – certain varieties run VERY hot)
Apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
Local, raw honey
Pack all ingredients in the quart jar, and cover with vinegar. All vegetable/herb material should be submerged. If it's not, try using a fermentation weight, or remove some onion.
Cap with a plastic mason jar lid, or use wax/parchment paper between the metal lid and the jar. Shake well.
Store in a cool, dry place (no need to refrigerate) for 4 weeks, shaking frequently (daily is best!).
Strain, squeezing the macerating vegetables/herbs in a cheesecloth to get the best extraction.
Whisk in 1/2 cup raw honey, taste, and add more honey by the tablespoon until you reach your desired sweet/tart/hot ratio.
Other possible additions:
Take 1-2 tablespoons every few hours when illness threatens…this stuff will get you sweating and secreting so your body can do its best to fight infection. Get into a hot bath, wrap up, and let yourself rest!
Sprinkle on vegetables, in salads, or as a marinating vinegar for meats.
Add to Hot & Sour Sore Throat Soup to boost its immune-enhancing potential.