It’s high winter. So cold and dry, that even if you don’t have the flu, it feels like you will any day now. Weather like this calls for Fire Cider, a folk remedy that includes a variety of common foods that are known to help stave off both illness (and vampires):
I was introduced to fire cider recently while having lunch with a friend who was raving about its effect on her circulation in the winter. She sent me the link to her source, Shire City Herbals, a company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts that sells the tonic online. Intrigued, I did some research and found that it is an herbal concoction with murky origins and a number of variations that has been used throughout history as a home remedy for colds and flu. With the exception of the horseradish – which I picked up at the store – I had all the ingredients in my kitchen, so why not try it?
The basic idea is this: imagine each of the common foods listed above as a super-hero with specific powers. Horseradish is anti-bacterial and sinus opening, onions are natural detoxifiers, ginger is good for digestion and boosts immunity, as does the super-food, garlic. Spicy jalapeños contain capsaicin, which will get your circulation moving when it’s 20° outside. Lemons round out this group of Super Friends with their immune-boosting and anti-microbial properties. Bring all these powerhouses together, chop them up and cover them with another miracle food: Apple Cider Vinegar. Throw in some cayenne and turmeric and shake it all up. After anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks, the alchemical process will be complete and your healing tonic will be ready. Herbalists normally prepare this recipe in the fall and some call for it to be buried in the ground while it cures.
I used this video by herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, to get started and improvised a bit on the ingredients. Here are the proportions I used:
1/2 c. fresh horseradish, grated
1/2 c. fresh ginger, grated
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, chopped
2 spicy peppers, chopped
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 T. Turmeric
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.
Chop and grate all your ingredients. Experience extreme sinus clearing and hand tingling during this process.
Add all the ingredients to a quart-sized jar and cover with apple cider vinegar.
Cover the jar and shake. Let it sit in a cool, dark place for 3-8 weeks. Once the curing period is complete, strain the cider vinegar with a cheesecloth and sweeten your concoction with honey to taste. You can take it as a medicinal tonic – a shot class a day – or add it to food to spice things up. I hear it is good in a bloody mary, too!
Admittedly, I am a bit late to this party, as it is now February and I am just starting my fire cider, so there will be no stashing it in the garden this year. I mixed mine a week ago and my plan is to steep it until I feel the first sign of a cold, which is all but inevitable this time of year. Once that happens, I will strain my tonic, try it out, and give a full report.