Brrrr! Even on the mild Northern California coast, the chill of autumn 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, there are plenty of ways to support your immune system as the weather shifts and the sun wanes. My favorite is by making FIRE CIDER!
I was introduced to this magical herbal concoction when I lived on the Mendocino Coast, from 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.
Every 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.
Making fire cider has become a fun autumn tradition for me, and it’s a great excuse to get together, so I highly recommend making fire cider with friends and sharing the bounty! During Covid I even did a fire cider making Zoom with a few friends. All that chopping and packing jars can get tedious so it’s nice to have company!
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 or add it later, after the fire cider has had a chance to infuse.
How to Make Your Own Fire Cider
Gather as many of these ingredients as you can, preferably organic. No need to peel anything but be sure everything is clean.
- ~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 or starting a second one, 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.
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, either on its own or mixed into hot water, honey and lemon. You can take it regularly as a preventative measure during the colder months as well. 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!