Winter is Coming – Brace Yourselves with Fire Cider

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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!

Reflecting on an Amazing End to Festival Season

Almost a month has passed already since Foreverland, which marked the end to our festival season this year. Since we started off early with Envision in February, it felt like a really LONG season. We only went to seven festivals, but with a couple back to back festival weekends and street teaming, volunteering, and working at over half of them, it was a very busy festy season. And a seriously amazing year in general… wow.

It has been hard to come up with the words to describe the past couple of months – they have flown by and the only way to summarize is to say that I’ve been overwhelmed (in a good way), extremely busy, and of course, overflowing with inspiration and ideas to keep me very very busy through the winter and into 2015.

One thing I must say is that I am in complete and utter AWE at some of the people I have been working with and surrounded by lately. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming because of how amazing life is. The transformational festival community, and especially the flow arts community, have recently opened up even further to me, filling me with a massive dose of inspiration, creative energy, and motivation to hustle my ass off and share this magic light we are co-creating with the world.

It’s kinda blowing my mind that I don’t just go to festivals any more, I help create them. As someone who has been going to barter faires, festivals, gatherings, burns, etc. etc. for about a dozen years now, this represents a pretty massive shift for me. And makes me ridiculously excited.

I am now helping the marketing & media teams for Enchanted Forest and Foreverland, wearing many hats and assisting however I can, but mostly maintaining social media accounts, creating marketing materials, and working with some very talented people to get the word out about these beautiful events. I have learned a LOT from some of the masterminds involved in events like Envision and Lucidity, and it has been a great way to gain experience in marketing and social media management. I get to build upon my design skills and learn new ones, all while helping the production team and getting a peek at how some of my favorite festivals are created. But I don’t just see events being created here, this community is building a new paradigm, testing out new ways of life, creating an amazing variety of art, circulating ideas, and bringing many divergent communities together to create something beautiful. This experience has made it even more clear to me that the transformational festival community can and is changing the world and shaping a more healthy and whole way of being. It’s electrifying watching this all take shape, and even more amazing playing a small role in making it happen. Like I said, wow.

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We finished off festival season with our only flow festival this year, Pacific Fire Gathering, on the Oregon coast, followed by Foreverland the very next weekend. We got to have a fun little flowmily sleep over at our friends’ house in Eugene before and after PacFire, and in addition to getting to spend time with friends we haven’t seen much of lately, we met many more spinner friends. Oregon was good to us and we didn’t want to leave! We worked at the fuel depot, took tons of workshops (I got to take two from the very inspiring Mary Jane Schroeder – such a badass!), watched all kinds of mind-blowing performances (and a very silly renegade show), spun fire all night, brought mega hoop out to play on the beach, got some new toys, learned a lot, and laughed so much our faces hurt. So much silliness, spinning, and love!

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I have never felt more at home among a group of people as I have at flow arts festivals. FireDrums and PacFire are definitely both on the must do list next year. These are our people and we were so tickled to be welcomed into our Oregon spinner crew at Camp Lookout at PacFire. FLOWMILY!!!

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The above poster was in the lodge at PacFire. It was my favorite. ONE OF US! If by “us” you mean this crazy family of circus freaks, fire benders, ninjas, jugglers, spinners, dancers, performers, object manipulators, and clowns that I am lucky enough to have stumbled into – then yes, I am in the cult. Sign me up. PacFire was one of those life-affirming weekends that will be fueling my flow practice all winter and then some. Lots to work on!

We were home for a couple of days, just enough time to do laundry but not enough to catch up on sleep, before it was time to head to Foreverland. After working on the event for six weeks, I was really excited to see everything we’d been envisioning manifest. Plus we had a pretty awesome crew gathered to camp with,  friends from our various summer adventures all setting up camp together for one last hurrah of the summer.

I headed to Foreverland with our friend Kolby, and we found a spot to camp and got situated before James and a bunch more friends rolled in. We arrived just in time to catch a beautiful sunset Thursday evening over the lake, and witnessed domes going up, stages being built, and a dusty lakeside being transformed into a pirate’s playground. It was quite an impressive collaboration, and the vibe and atmosphere reminded me a lot of Burning Man, though on a much smaller first-year-event scale, and with a lake, albeit a depressingly low and muddy one due to severe drought.

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We enjoyed perfect weather at Foreverland, hot days good for chilling and floating on the lake, and mild cool nights perfect for dancing and taking in all kinds of art and magic. I worked a bit over the weekend, posting updates to our Instagram and Facebook pages, participating in media team meetings and taking photos. We got to see some great music and performances, hang out with friends, spin some fire on stage, and even go up in the Space Wench pirate ship stage at the lake’s edge. It was an epic weekend and really satisfying to see the event we worked so hard on go so smoothly.

James and his buddies played an Acacia Beats set on a floating stage on the lake Saturday during the day. Their tunes brought out plenty of people to dance on the lake’s edge or float and swim in the water. I rode a floaty out to the stage, carefully taking my camera with me to get some photos during their set.

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Foreverland is a collaborative effort put on by various production companies, Burning Man camps, and other groups such as Enchanted Forest, Fractal Planet, Hookahdome, Sacred Spaces and more. It was a mix of the spiritual new-age hippie crowd, the rowdy pirate party people, local first timers and festival regulars, folks from all over and all walks of life, who came together to celebrate art, music and life harmoniously and beautifully. By the end of the weekend, the local cops were partying with the attendees on the dance floor and holding “Give Thanks” signs for photos at the top of the pirate ship stage… mind blowing stuff and a wonderful way to break new ground for the festival community. It is an absolute honor to be involved with such an inspiring group of people at Foreverland!

We have been slowly winding down over the past month as we clean up and pack away the festival gear, get back into a regular spin jam schedule, and make the most of the autumn abundance here in Mendocino.

I started canning with a friend in Comptche recently, and have been spending afternoons and long nights out there making jam, picking grapes and apples, sharing homegrown food, trying new jelly recipes, and even making salsa and pickles. I’m keeping up with the fermented foods swap group and just started taking belly dance classes again.

James and I have had plenty to practice after PacFire, and hosting regular spin jams and fire practice sessions. James made a Facebook page for his fire and DJ performance and got fire performer insurance. He’s been practicing with his new fire staff and recently got hired for his first professional gig as an insured performer at a birthday party last weekend. I am following suit with insurance soon and we will both be performing on Halloween at a local street party event. Super excited to be leveling up our involvement in flow arts and performing, and I am so proud of my amazingly talented man for taking big steps towards making a living from spinning fire. Wow.

Lots of good things to come as the rains return and our social schedule slows down. I have been enjoying the time at home to work, save money, make delicious food, and go out and about locally. Hibernation  & work made: engaged!