Winter is Coming – Brace Yourselves with Fire Cider

cloak-game-of-thrones-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-sean-bean-tv-series-winter-is-coming-eddard-ned-stark_www-wall321-com_92

Brrrr! Even on the mild Mendocino coast, the chill of winter is in the air. The rain has begun (thank goodness!) and the holidays are upon us. With so much happening, no one has time to get sick. Thankfully, you don’t need to get a flu shot to avoid the dreaded cold and flu season, there is a better way! Let me introduce you to my favorite flu shot alternative, FIRE CIDER!

I was introduced to this magical herbal concoction last year in my beloved fermented foods swap group, Coastal Culture and Abundance, though it is not actually a ferment, it’s an infusion in vinegar. Fire Cider is a traditional herbal remedy that has been made and shared by many herbalists for decades to help boost the immune system, fight inflammation and infection, and warm the body from the inside. Recently, a company tried to trademark the name Fire Cider, effectively attempting to “own” a generic herbal remedy and prevent others from using this generic name for their versions of it, even though it was being made and shared by herbalists long before their attempt to lay claim to it. Herbalists responded by boycotting the company, Shire City Herbals, and continuing to spread information about it so that people could make fire cider themselves and keep this lovely tradition alive!

From FreeFireCider.com, a group of 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. They are committed to providing information and materials for the herbal community so that together, we can fight to keep traditional remedies free and available to everyone:

The remedy is used to help warm up the body, and generally acts a stimulant and antimicrobial used during cold and flu season.  Recently, a large company decided to trademark the name and is forcing small businesses who have made and sold it to change their product names.  Some of the companies and individuals in question have made and sold this remedy for many years longer than the company that trademarked it has even existed.  Many people feel this is a dangerous precedent to anyone who creates and shares recipes anywhere on the web or in books and this led to a filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office asking that the mark be deemed generic.  Until the company agrees to freeing Fire Cider from trademark restriction, a boycott of their product has been launched.

Fire Cider

Last fall, our Coastal Culture and Abundance group got together to make fire cider, each bringing some ingredients to share and an empty jar to take our fire cider home in, and we gathered again last week to make new batches for the coming winter. It’s becoming a really fun autumn tradition, and it’s a great excuse to get together, so I highly recommend making fire cider with friends and sharing the bounty!

You’ll find countless versions of this recipe online, but the basic recipe includes onions, hot peppers, ginger, turmeric, garlic, horseradish, citrus fruit, rosemary, apple cider vinegar, and honey. I like to add a variety of other beneficial ingredients like black peppercorns (to help activate the turmeric), oregano, burdock root, radishes, rose hips if I can find them, any other fresh herbs I have on hand, and plenty of different varieties of citrus and peppers. I usually skip the honey as well.

Fire Cider recipe from freefirecider.com

How to Make Your Own Fire Cider

Gather as many of these ingredients as you can, preferably organic. No need to peel anything!

  • ~1/2 cup fresh ginger root (grated or chopped)
  • ~1/2 cup fresh horseradish root (grated or roughly chopped)
  • ~1/4 cup fresh turmeric root, or a couple Tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1-2 onions, chopped (I like to use multiple colors)
  • 10-12 cloves of garlic (I just remove the outer layers and separate the cloves, no need to peel them completely)
  • a few hot peppers of various varieties, chopped
  • 2 or more citrus fruits, cut into rounds (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit are all excellent additions)
  • a few sprigs each of fresh herbs like rosemary, oregano, parsley and cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp or so of whole peppercorns
  • ~1/8 cup or so of fresh burdock root
  • A few slices of turnip, radish, or daikon, if desired
  • raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar

Chop or grate all ingredients into small pieces. Grab a large jar – quart or half gallon size, depending on how many ingredients you have, and fill it up with ingredients. It helps to add a little of each ingredient at a time to create pretty layers in the jar. If you find that you are having to pack ingredients in tightly to fit them, I recommend moving everything into a larger jar, because you’ll want plenty of space for the vinegar.

Once your jar is full of colorful ingredients, fill it with apple cider vinegar. Using a plastic lid or a layer of wax paper under the metal lid to prevent corrosion, cap the jar and let it sit out at room temperature for at least 4 weeks, preferably in a cool, dark place like a cupboard. Turn the jar over or give it a good shake every few days or whenever you remember to, letting all the goodness infuse into the vinegar.

Once it’s sat for at least a month (no harm in letting it infuse longer if you like), strain the liquid into a jar and keep it in the fridge. The solids can be composted or if you’d rather not waste them, I dry them in a food dehydrator for a day or so, then grind them all up in a coffee grinder and use it as a spice blend. If you like, you can add about 1/4 cup raw honey to the liquid to make it a bit more palatable, but I don’t really mind the taste, so I leave it out.

Fire Cider

Now that you’ve made this lovely concoction, how do you use it? It can be taken by the spoonful or in a shot glass as a healing tonic whenever you feel a cold coming on (have water handy to chase it with!), or you can take it regularly as a preventative measure. I add some to my homemade salad dressings, and you can also use it as a marinade or add it to any recipes that could benefit from a little kick. Basically, anything you’d use vinegar for, you can use fire cider for, and it will add a bit of spice and all kinds of immune boosting benefits.

Fire Cider is easy and fun to make, and it adds a gorgeous festive touch to your countertops while it steeps. And it’s especially fun to make with friends, so gather your tribe and make a party out of it!

How do you use fire cider? Do you add any special ingredients not listed above? Please share your tips in the comments!

The Flow Must Go On!

Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA's Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.
Mendo Flow Dojo at CircusMECCA’s Halloween Party. Photo by Keith Wyner.

It turns out that fall is just as busy as summer, if not more, and the changing seasons have certainly kept me on my toes. After our final festival trip of the year to Pacific Fire Gathering in September, we got right back to busily working our little tushies off. Weekends have been full of picking up extra work, jam jamming, and staying local, which has been so nice! We started October with a camping trip at Usal on the nearby Lost Coast for a friend’s birthday, and finished it with two shows in the bay area and then a kickass fire performance with our local circus school, CircusMECCA, at their Halloween street party in Mendocino.

I’ve started canning for fall, cleaning up from one season and preparing for the next in the garden, and enjoying a little more time to catch up on things around the house. But after the busiest year of my life, the to do list is still long as the holidays approach and the festival production season kicks off again soon with Lucidity (tickets are just now going on sale at 9am 11/3… which means another cycle begins and I will be quite busy). And the bills never end, so crush mode must remain engaged!

Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.
Fire Hoop at Once Upon a Festival. Photo by Zac Krohn / Clapping Porpoise Studios.

With a bit more time on my hands, I’ve finally gotten around to creating a Facebook page for my flow arts performance persona, Twisty Pixie.  Since James has had a page (Flicker) for a while now and we often perform together, I needed a place to gather photos & videos of my flow arts performances. I wanted to create something I can promote with and use as a contact point to get new performing gigs. Hopefully this is just the beginning. We have some pretty big dreams and it’s awesome to be getting such a great response when we share what we love doing with the world.

Our Halloween performance was a lot of fun, and we busted out more props and a longer set than ever for our third year performing with the amazingly talented folks at CircusMECCA. We dressed as fire ninjas and James made a mix of kung fu inspired music, and though we’ve both been so busy that we didn’t get much practice time in before the show, we got a great response from the crowd and hopefully got some new locals interested in the flow arts. We continue to host spin jams in town on most Thursday evenings, and perform together under the same name as our spin jam group, Mendo Flow Dojo.

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.

We even made the front page of the local paper, Mendocino Beacon, (and page 5) with fire photos from our Halloween performance and Mendo Flow Dojo got a mention! Granted, Mendocino is tiny so making the front page isn’t exactly difficult, but still, fire spinning on the front page! Fancy pants!

Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
Our fire performance on Halloween made the front page of the Mendocino Beacon!
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon
James got a photo on page 5 of the Mendocino Beacon

We only had a few official gigs this year (when we do so many things it’s hard to focus on practicing and our performance business as much as we’d like) but life is good when you can do what you love and actually get compensated for it! It gives me hope to see that the world still values art and creativity enough to support some pretty talented and amazing artists, and I am so grateful to have met and know a few of them personally! The flow life is the good life, and I am super excited for the next chapter in this adventure…

Hopefully lots more fun gigs are in our future, a promo video, and a web site for fire performance and flow arts education. If we know any photographers or videographers who are interested in capturing fire performance and going on a few flow arts photo shoots in beautiful local locations, hit us up! We are hoping to collaborate on a few photo shoots and we’re always looking for help capturing our shows. Thanks so much for your support!

James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.
James at our Mendo Flow Dojo Halloween performance. Photo by Keith Wyner.

Performance is not something I ever thought I would do professionally or even get into at all, especially with dance, silly shapes and dangerous fire as my medium. But sharing what I love with the world, engaging people in playful performances, and inspiring others to dance, move, and explore themselves has been a beautiful journey and I am so grateful that I can share this passion with my partner. It was, after all, a fire performance we were both asked to do at a Halloween party a few years ago that started our friendship and our love story. And this fire is still burning bright… because the flow must go on! <3

Performing at Paige & Trent's Wedding in May.
Performing at Paige & Trent’s Wedding in May.