February 2nd marks ‘World Fire Cider Day’. Fire cider is a traditional folk remedy made by infusing vinegar with powerful ingredients like garlic, onions, ginger, pepper, and horseradish. It is a powerful boost to give the immune system during the winter months to aid in digestion, clear congestion and support circulation. A few daily teaspoons is a favorite health remedy with many, and you can always adapt the recipe for personal preferences with a wide variety of ingredients.
The Free Fire Cider blog is run by herbalists working together with herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, who coined the phrase “fire cider” and started sharing the recipe over 25 years ago, to protect the name Fire Cider from trademarks. Rosemary shares her story in making it a tradition.
A spicy hot deliciously sweet vinegar tonic, Fire Cider was first concocted in the kitchen at the California School of Herbal Studies in the early 1980’s. Intent on teaching my students how to make herbal preparations that were as much food as they were medicines, I was constantly experimenting and concocting all manner of medicinal herbs into a variety of recipes. Those that turned out well were shared freely with my students and our community. The idea was to bring medicinal herbalism back into people’s kitchens, as part of their food and as a way of being, not just for medicinal purposes. Fire Cider was among those early ‘cross over’ recipes ~ part medicine, part food ~ that was made and shared freely. I taught hundreds of people how to make it at the California School of Herbal Studies, which I directed and taught at from 1978 thru 1987, and also as I traveled about the country teaching about medicinal plants in conferences, schools and various events.
At the time (early 1980’s), there weren’t any other Fire Cider recipes available and no products specifically named Fire Cider. There were some great old apple cider vinegar recipes that circulated, such as the popular Apple Cider Vinegar, maple syrup (or honey) and cayenne tonic that Dr. Jarvis, an old Vermont Doctor advocated for and made famous in the 1950’s. Another excellent product out at the time, similar to Fire Cider, was Cyclone Cider, which contained a blend of hot spicy herbs, apple cider vinegar and honey. A popular product, Cyclone Cider was sold in natural food stores during the 1980’s and for all I know, may still be available. There were also early herb vinegar formulas such the oxymel made famous by the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, and the equally well known 4 Thieves Vinegar that supposedly kept 4 grave robbers from catching the plague during the middle ages. While these herbal formulas consisted of vinegar, honey and herbs they contain primarily mild culinary herbs and not the hot, fiery pungent blend of with its well balanced blend of hot, spicy, and pungent flavors steeped in apple cider vinegar and finished with the rich sweetness of honey, Fire Cider is pleasantly delicious, and also, a wonderful blend of medicinal herbs. The original formula contained garlic, onions, horseradish root, ginger root, hot peppers, sometimes turmeric, and often echinacea; all powerful immune enhancers that help ward off infections, colds, flus, and bronchial congestion. We found we could use Fire Cider during the winter, a tablespoon or two a day, to help keep the immune system healthy and to ward off infections. All this, and it tasted good too!
It was great to see Fire Cider, as well as many of my other favorite recipes, gain in popularity. That was the whole idea; to transform America ~ and our health care system ~ one kitchen at a time, through herbalism! Lots of people started making these recipes, adapting them, changing an ingredient and making it ‘theirs’. Several small herbal companies started up during this time and began packaging and selling Fire Cider in their local stores and farmers markets. I was also making it and selling it at my herb shoppe in the small town I grew up in northern California. It was wonderful to see the way people were so eagerly responding to herbal medicine. It was if they were hungry for it, and were ready to embrace herbal medicine again. Fire Cider was part of that herbal revolution; it was a medicine we could make in our kitchens, share with others, and bottle, label, sell if we chose to and empower.
1/2 cup fresh grated organic ginger root
1/2 cup fresh grated organic horseradish root
1 medium organic onion, chopped
10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped
2 organic jalapeno peppers, chopped
zest and juice from 1 organic lemon
several sprigs of fresh organic rosemary or 2 tbsp of dried rosemary leaves
1 tbsp organic turmeric powder
1/4 tsp organic cayenne powder
organic apple cider vinegar
raw local honey to taste
Prepare all of your roots, fruits, and herbs and place them in a quart-sized jar. If you’ve never grated fresh horseradish, be prepared for a powerful sinus opening experience! Use a piece of natural parchment paper under the lid to keep the vinegar from touching the metal, or a plastic lid if you have one. Shake well. Store in a dark, cool place for a month and remember to shake daily.
After one month, use cheesecloth to strain out the pulp, pouring the vinegar into a clean jar. Be sure to squeeze as much of the liquidy goodness as you can from the pulp while straining. Next comes the honey. Add 1/4 cup of honey and stir until incorporated. Taste your cider and add another 1/4 cup until you reach the desired sweetness.
There are many variations of Fire Cider. The images above is called Turmeric Fire Cider from Darling Lemon Thyme.
Photography: Darling Lemon Thyme