Today I’m sharing my tutorial for how to make fire cider tonic, an old folk tonic used to strengthen the immune system especially during winter.
Fire cider is a cinch to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already! I’ll be covering how to make fire cider at home, the ingredient benefits, and explaining how we use it in my kitchen. It’s a staple at our house, especially during the cold winter months.
Note: This post is not a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from cold or flu, have a weakened immune system, etc. please see your healthcare provider!
What is Fire Cider?
Using the basic recipe and ingredients of fire cider for medicinal properties goes way back to ancient times, but the recipe was more recently popularized during the late 1970s by Rosemary Gladstar, a herbalist in California. Since then, fire cider has been a popular herbal remedy and is most often used as a preventative measure against the cold and flu.
Not only that, but since the base of fire cider is apple cider vinegar, it makes a great digestive aid if your digestion is a bit on the sluggish or weak side. As a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, I come into contact with a lot of folks struggling with wonky digestion and that can set up a host of issues further down the tract. In many cases, adding a bit of an acidic boost before a meal can help tremendously. Try mixing a tablespoon of fire cider into about 4 ounces of room temperature water and drinking it about 15 minutes before a meal.
The basic ingredients are apple cider vinegar, onion, turmeric, ginger, garlic, honey, lemons, and cayenne pepper. I know that sounds like a strange combination of ingredients, but fire cider is very tasty. It’s earthy, spicy, sour, and a touch sweet and I incorporate a tablespoon or two into my routine every day.
Benefits of Fire Cider Tonic Ingredients
Fire cider boasts numerous health benefits and can be used to support your immune system or as a digestive aid before or after meals. Here’s a quick breakdown of the main ingredients and their medicinal uses:
- Garlic. Garlic not only tastes great but has potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties. (1) Garlic contains a high amount of cysteine, an amino acid that contains sulfur and works to support detoxification in the body. (2) It’s also one of my favorite prebiotic foods to add to recipes because of its great taste and myriad benefits.
- Onion. Onions, like garlic, are prebiotics. Worth noting, however, that in this recipe, you won’t be consuming the prebiotic fibers of the onion itself. Onions are a member of the allium family and have properties that may protect against certain cancers, especially digestive tract cancers. The sulfur contained in onions works to alter the behavior of precancerous cells and has antifungal and antimicrobial properties. (3)
- Ginger Root. Polyphenols (micronutrients) in ginger act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radical activity (unstable atoms linked to diseases like cancer) and reducing inflammation. (4) Ginger also improves gastrointestinal health and can be used to fight nausea. (5)
- Horseradish Root. When grated, horseradish root releases ally isothiocyanate , a strong anti-inflammatory and antibiotic compound. (6) Horseradish has been used for centuries to boost the immune system, prevent urinary tract infections, treat sinus infections, and aid in digestion. (7) It’s what gives fire cider its trademark hot, pungent flavor. You can feel the spicy effects of horseradish in your nose and sinuses, which explains why horseradish is sometimes used to relieve congestion.
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Raw apple cider vinegar includes the ‘mother’, or the string-like bacterial blob used to ferment the vinegar. The mother contains probiotics, and the vinegar itself is antimicrobial, improves insulin resistance, has antifungal properties, and may be helpful for hypertension. (8,9) You can also sip a little apple cider vinegar before meals to improve digestion.
- Turmeric Root. Turmeric’s bright yellow color and health benefits come from curcumin, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidative compound. (10) For this recipe, I recommend using turmeric root instead of ground turmeric. Turmeric root can usually be found in health food or Asian grocery stores. Since curcumin is made more bioavailable (easily absorbed in the body) with black pepper, I recommend adding the black pepper in this recipe for maximum benefit.
- Citrus Juice & Peel. Lemon and orange peels contain high amounts of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C, and are great for boosting the immune system. (11) Many traditional Chinese medicines used citrus peels to treat coughs, fevers, and other infections. Beyond the health benefits, I have a strong love for all things citrus – if you’re looking for another great way to use lemons in your winter cooking, check out my recipe for Preserved Lemons.
- Honey. Honey gives fire cider the spicy-sweet edge it’s known for, and you can add more honey as needed if you’re not a fan of the more pungent flavors. Honey also boasts some health properties of its own, like being antimicrobial. If you want to add honey to the original recipe, wait until the end (after the ingredients have marinated together for 3-4 weeks) and warm the honey before adding to make it easier to stir in.
- Black Pepper. Black pepper has its own set of health benefits (it’s anti-inflammatory and may have anti-cancer properties), but I always include black pepper because it increases the absorption and metabolization of curcumin.
Those are typically main ingredients for fire cider, but different fire cider recipes might call for different ingredients. I also include cinnamon, jalapeño, and cayenne pepper in my recipe for a little bit of extra heat (cayenne has some impressive health benefits as well), and you can play with adding echinacea, rosemary, cloves, habanero peppers, or different types of citrus fruits depending on your taste preferences.
How I Make Fire Cider
The traditional fire cider recipe calls for soaking onions, garlic, horseradish, ginger, and cayenne peppers in apple cider vinegar for several weeks before adding honey. (Technically an infusion like this with honey added is called an oxymel.) You can mix and match ingredients depending on your taste preferences.
To make fire cider, I just gently wash the fruits and roots, grate the turmeric and horseradish, rough chop the onions, zest and juice the citrus fruits, then throw all the ingredients into a large Mason jar. I cover everything with raw apple cider vinegar, place the lid on the jar, and store it in the back of my pantry (any cool, dry place will work) for about a month. To finish, I strain the mixture and stir in honey to taste.
Here’s a step by step:
- Add the roughly chopped onions and garlic cloves.
2. Add the grated ginger. I make it easy on myself and shred the ginger with a food processor fitted with a grating blade (see the one I have) but a plain old box grater also works.
3. Next, add the grated horseradish. If you’re adventurous, take a little whiff. It’ll clear out your sinuses!
4. Up next, add the grated turmeric, orange and lemon zest and juice.
5. Now, add the jalapeño, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and cayenne pepper.
6. Fill jar to the neck with raw apple cider vinegar and tuck away in a dark cabinet for a month.
How to Use Fire Cider
Rosemary Gladstar’s original recommendation is to take 1-2 tablespoons of fire cider daily, and increasing the dosage if you feel a cold coming on. If you don’t mind the pungent, earthy taste, this won’t be a problem. However, here are a few more ways you can incorporate fire cider into your daily routine besides drinking it straight:
- Mix a few spoonfuls into a cup of ginger tea
- Pour on salads as a vinaigrette, or add to your favorite dressing recipe (this Hot Sweet Bacon Dressing might be a good one to try)
- Add a few tablespoons to your favorite winter mocktail (like this one ) or add a spoonful to sparkling water over ice
- Add a tablespoon or two to apple cider or lemonade
- Stir into soups or chilis
- Use as a marinade for beef, chicken, or pork
My Favorite Fire Cider Recipe
This is the recipe that Z and I have been using in our kitchen since I first started making fire cider. We’ve tweaked it over the years to suit our preferences, so feel free to play around with the amounts (you might like it less spicy than we do, for example).
Fire cider is quick to throw together, but you’ll need to wait 3 to 4 weeks before consuming so the ingredients have time to infuse. I can’t wait for you to try it and let me know what you think!
Fire Cider Tonic
This spin-off from the original fire cider recipe is rich in flavor thanks to the many herbs, spices, and pungent apple cider vinegar. It’s a great addition to your winter cooking line up and can be used to make dressings, teas, mocktails, and marinades, or can be enjoyed straight for a quick immune boost or digestive aid.
- 2 onions small, chopped
- 2 jalapeño peppers tops cut off, chopped
- 1 head garlic cloves gently crushed
- 1/2 cup fresh horseradish root grated
- 1/2 cup fresh ginger root grated
- 1/2 cup fresh turmeric root grated
- 2 oranges zest & juice
- 1 lemon zest & juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- generous pinch whole black peppercorns
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup raw honey local if possible
Combine all the ingredients in a clean 32 oz Mason jar.
Fill to the neck with raw apple cider vinegar.
Place a small piece of wax paper underneath the lid. Fit the lid on the Mason jar tightly.
Put the jar in a cabinet and allow the vinegar to infuse for 30 days. Every day, invert the jar a couple times to make sure everything is well-mixed.
After 30 days, strain the liquid away from the solids. Thank the plants for contributing their goodness and either compost or discard the solids.
Add the honey and mix until dissolved. Store the completed fire cider in a bottle in the refrigerator.
Ever tried fire cider before? Leave me a comment below if you loved this recipe!
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