By Anna Fernandez
It's the middle of winter. It's dark. It's cold. It's gray. The holiday festivities are over for another year. No need to fear! Fire Cider is here! What is Fire Cider you may ask? Fire Cider is a traditional herbal/food creation that has been around for ages. I don't think the exact origin is known, though based on most of the ingredients, it must have come from some temperate region where apples grow in abundance. Many of you have likely heard of this concoction and have no doubt already decided how you feel about it. For those of you who haven't, now is an excellent time of year to try it.
There are as many recipes for Fire Cider as there are herbalists who make it. Each recipe is unique, customized to meet a particular need or to appeal to specific taste buds. Whatever the recipe, all Fire Cider has a base of apple cider vinegar (ACV), and many recipes contain honey. The recipe taught to me by an herbalist friend out in Bellingham, Washington, contains horseradish, onions, garlic, ginger, parsley, and cayenne pepper. I used to make this by the gallons for a health food store. The owner sold it by the shot, and people loved it!
As you can imagine, with that line up of ingredients, Fire Cider gets the body systems moving! It's invigorating from the moment it touches the taste buds. Taken daily, or as needed, this blend of herbs is known to boost the immune system, support digestion, and get the circulation going. It's a "cures what ails you" kind of concoction. It can be taken by the tablespoon or shot, or used in salad dressings, stir-fries -- you name it.
Each ingredient has its own benefits, and together, they pack a powerful punch!
Apple cider vinegar is an important health food, and has been credited for many things, from balancing beneficial bacteria in the system and providing vitamins and minerals to aiding digestion, supporting good blood sugars, and strengthening the immune system.
Horseradish is well known for its sinus clearing capabilities, and is great for upper respiratory congestion. Not everyone knows that it is also great for increasing digestive secretions. High in sulfur and volatile oils, horseradish helps combat bacteria that may cause infection.
Onions are a powerhouse food and were used historically in the prevention of epidemic outbreaks. Especially good for helping with sinus infections, onions are also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
Garlic supports immune function, is anti-microbial, and serves as a tonic to the circulatory system as well. Packed with antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, garlic is truly a superfood!
Ginger is warming and stimulating to the digestive and circulatory systems. Like having a warm blanket wrapped around you, ginger is a great winter friend.
Parsley is high in vitamins and minerals and also mildly diuretic, and apple cider vinegar is very good at pulling out minerals from these herbs.
Cayenne pepper has been used a circulatory stimulant (if you've ever noticed yourself starting to sweat after consuming a large quantity, you may already be familiar with this effect). It is also a digestive aid and pain reliever, and has even been known to help regulate blood sugar levels. Choose your heat index carefully when making your own Fire Cider. A little goes a long way!
Basic Fire Cider Recipe:
(All ingredients should be used fresh and raw. Yields around a third of a gallon.)
2/3 pound of horseradish
1/3 pound garlic
1/2 pound onion
1/2 pound ginger
1/2 bunch of parsley
Cayenne to taste -- depending on the heat index and your preference
All of the ingredients except ginger are easy to grow in our climate. You can also find all or most of the ingredients at any health food store.
Chop the ingredients and put them into a half-gallon glass mason jar or something comparable. Fill the rest of the jar with organic, raw apple cider vinegar (the mother ingredient!). Use a plastic lid or put a barrier between the metal lid and the ACV. If you don't, the metal may rust. Shake your concoction daily, and after at least a month, strain through a sieve, cheese cloth, or pressing bag. It's best to squeeze out as much fluid as you can. Compost what you pressed and re-bottle the infused ACV. If desired, add some honey to taste. Don't forget to label it! You may end up with sediment on the bottom of your jar after you let it sit. Just shake it well before using. Always consult a health care practitioner before drinking Fire Cider if you are on medications, pregnant, or have a serious health condition.
Fire Cider is a great addition to these long winter days. Choosing to eat powerhouse, healing foods is a great way to be mindful about your health and vitality, and can enhance the quality of your life!
Anna Fernandez is an herbalist and the owner of Mother Bloom Botanicals. She’s also a midwife with New Moon Midwifery. She lives outside of Chelsea on a small farm with her husband and two children. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.