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For Tenderhearts

A journal for tender hearts.

An Introduction to Fire Cider

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When I first came to herbalism, I was quickly drawn to the idea of food as medicine. Cayenne increases blood flow and acts as a gastric stimulant, aiding in digestion. Chewing a fennel seed also aids in digestion. Garlic is antiseptic and can be used to help clear acne. Apples sooth gastric issues and can be used topically to aid in the healing of skin infections.

Fall has crept its way into Minnesota – the leaves have all changed and the nights are cool, which means that flu season is looming and every sneeze, sniffle and cough in my household has us holding our breath and stocking up on immune boosters.

That’s where fire cider comes in.

So what is fire cider? This sweet, spicy, tonic folk remedy is a mix of the most potent herbs and vegetables you probably have in your kitchen, all steeped in apple cider vinegar. It supports the immune system, helps fight colds, and promotes general health and well being, particularly in the cooler months when we’re most vulnerable.

While vinegar tonics as a folk remedy have likely been around for ages, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar is credited with concocting what we current think of as fire cider. Read more about her story and ethics here.

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I first learned how to make fire cider from Amy Kuretsky last Spring. I had long been eager to learn and was blown away by how simple and effective it was. It also affirmed what I already felt to be true – that medicine and healing is hiding among us, and with quiet attention we can unlock that power.

I made my first batch of the season the other day and folks seemed pretty interested when I posted it to instagram, so I thought I’d write about my process and recipe here. Crafting this remedy is a pretty intuitive process and there are many other googlable sources out their for specifics — I used this recipe from Mountain Rose Herbs as a base — so I’ll just share the basic ingredients and how I used them.

Ingredients:

A knob of Ginger
Horseradish Root
Onion
Garlic – the recipe I looked at called for 10 cloves, I used 4
Jalapeños
Juice and zest of One Lemon
Turmeric
Cayenne
Apple Cider Vinegar
Honey to taste

Preparation:

  1. Prepare all your vegetables and herbs by dicing the horseradish, ginger, onion and garlic, and slicing the jalapeños.

  2. Place all of the ingredients into an air tight, quart-sized jar and pack down with a spoon.

  3. Pour apple cider vinegar into the jar until all of the ingredients are covered.

  4. Place a piece of parchment paper over the lid of the jar to prevent the vinegar from coming into contact with the metal rim (I skipped this and used a glass jar with a rubber seal).

  5. Give the jar a good shake.

  6. Keep your concoction in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks, remembering to shake it gently daily.

  7. In 4-6 weeks, use a strainer to separate the vinegar from the pulp. Squeeze the pulp thoroughly to get as much of the liquid as possible.

  8. Add honey to taste — I added 1 teaspoon at a time until it tasted good to me, since I don’t like mine too sweet.

That’s it! I’ve read about some folks using their fire cider to make a nice vinaigrette for salads, adding it to mixed drinks in place of alcohol, or as a sauce on cooked rice or vegetables. I’m still experimenting with how to use the pulp (throwing out perfectly good ingredients never feels right to me), but I’ve read some recipes for fire cider chutney (also included in the Rosemary Gladstar article I mentioned) that I’d love to try. I’ve also heard of folks grinding up the dehydrated herbs to use as a taco seasoning or meat braise.

Other herbs and vegetables I’ve seen folks add to their fire cider concoctions include:
Peppercorns, Lime, Basil, Thyme, Cilantro, Orange, burdock root, and astragalus root.

Have you ever made fire cider? I’d love to know your experience with it! Thanks for reading!