How to make fire cider and boost your immunity in the winter
One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to make herbal remedies to preserve all the autumn splendor. Fire cider is an apple cider vinegar wellness tonic infused with antiviral roots, veggies and spices. It's meant to be taken daily in the fall to build your immunity for the colder winter months, and this year that feels more important than ever.
I first learned how to make fire cider from my herbalist Suzanne Tabert while taking her summer apprenticeship last year, and it's a staple in my apothecary now. It's super easy to make, and very customizable to what you have on hand. The important things are to make sure you dice and mince all the vegetables finely so that the ACV can soak up all their medicinal properties, and to let it sit for 3 or 4 weeks before straining.
My friend Mala making a batch last year. It's such a beautiful and simple process!
The science behind it is really interesting; onions and garlic are full of constituents that kill bacteria and boost immunity. They both have acetic acid and sinapic acid which are antibacterial and salenium, a micromineral that helps the body resist disease. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which helps boost overall health. The peppers bring the heat, and roots like turmeric have terpenes that are antimicrobial and act as an expectorant. I could go on, because the science behind fire cider is fascinating. If you're into that sort of thing, check out Suzanne's full article on how to make fire cider! Or, honestly just take a class from her - You won't regret it.
To make fire cider, you'll need the following:
- Glass quart jar with plastic seal (Le Parfait makes a great one, or you can find any quart jar at a thrift store and purchase a replacement seal online). If you use a jar with a metal lid instead, make sure to put some parchment paper over the top before closing the lid so it doesn't rust from the vinegar.
- Butcher's knife and cutting board
- Mason jar funnel to transfer the ingredients to your quart jar without making a mess
- 1 Qt. Apple cider vinegar, raw, organic unpasteurized (Bragg's is my brand of choice and comes in a glass jar; 1 qt will do the trick)
- 1 large onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 2" of ginger root
- 2" of horseradish
- 1" turmeric root
- 1 cayenne pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 1 lemon or lime
- Black peppercorns if desired
Once you have the items in hand, go ahead and peel the onion and the garlic (you can add the peels to a soup stock or compost them if you wish). Dice the onion and mince the garlic and add them to the jar, using the mason jar funnel for easy cleanup. Dice up the ginger, horseradish and turmeric root (you don't need to peel these because you'll strain them out later). Dice up the peppers and keep the seeds if you like extra heat, compost them if you don't. Slice the lemon or lime and add to the jar, rind, seeds and all. Add a few black peppercorns, whole.
Sidenote: if you have other peppers or can't find all the roots, you can totally substitute or adjust these proportions as needed. The important part is to pack it with veggies with these antimicrobial and antiviral properties.
Fill the jar about 3/4 full with the chopped ingredients and then pour the apple cider vinegar over it, filling to the brim. After a day or two, the veggies will have soaked up some of the ACV, so be sure to come back and top off the jar again.
Keep your fermenting fire cider in the fridge and let it steep for three or four weeks. When it's ready to strain, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer (or some cheese cloth in a regular strainer) to separate the now pickled veggies from the fire cider. You can save the pickled veggies to eat on a salad or on top of a dish - super yummy!
Fire cider can kill bacteria and viruses before they set in, so it's great to take if you feel a cold coming on or you run into a friend who is sick. My herbalist Suzanne loves to put it in a little spray bottle and spray some in her mouth throughout the day. She always says if you're craving the taste, you probably need to take a little extra that day. Listen to your body!
Be forewarned - fire cider has a strong taste! It's literally garlic and onions in apple cider vinegar, so it's not for the faint of heart. Usually when my friends taste it for the first time they say "oh ew! ... Wait can I have some more?" So call it an acquired taste. Once you get used to it, it's a yummy way to boost your immunity and stay healthy. I hope you enjoy the recipe! Let me know if you have any questions.