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 V.22 No.50 | December 12 - 18, 2013 

Food 101

Fire Cider Unchained

Your secret weapon against seasonal ailments

Go ahead and drink it. I dare you.
Gail Guengerich
Go ahead and drink it. I dare you.

Infused vinegars are nothing new. Neither is the cynosure of all infused vinegars—that great crackling comet in a bottle known as fire cider.

But wait, are you fire cider compatible? Take this quiz: Do you like tasty, spicy, addictive things? Do you fall into a cold and flu-induced torpor every winter? Do you wish to keep impertinent smoochers at bay? Okay then, meet fire cider, your new best friend.

Fire cider is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, warming and stimulating to the digestive and circulatory system. Downing a draught of this smoldering tonic spiked with garlic, hot peppers, ginger, horseradish and onion, smoothed through with honey, feels a bit like tossing Molotov cocktails at bodily invaders. Old World mothers have whipped it up for centuries, but like most folkloric knowledge, fire cider was buried and forgotten.

Let's remember it! I say.

I first tasted fire cider while housesitting for a friend. Once you taste it, there's no going back. There is a sort of corona effect in your mouth, a flaring and deepening of flavor that you begin to crave. After returning to my own home, all I could think about was the big fire cider-shaped hole in my life and how I could fill it.

I foresee this becoming a widespread problem. Fire cider is making a comeback, you see. A small company (named Fire Cider) out of New England is mass producing the stuff and stocking stores all over the northeast and random other states, New Mexico not included. All the better for us because we'll learn to make our own.

Fire cider is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, warming and stimulating to the digestive and circulatory system. Downing a draught of this smoldering tonic spiked with garlic, hot peppers, ginger, horseradish and onion, smoothed through with honey, feels a bit like tossing Molotov cocktails at bodily invaders.

So let's get down to it. Part of the fun of making fire cider is the delay in gratification. Fire cider should steep for a month minimum in order to acquire all its potent and luminous properties. Apparently some people bury the jar a month before a solstice or equinox, then unearth it at a big feast day with friends. Considering the instructions to shake daily, I don't know how that works. (Maybe you dig it up and rebury it daily, creating a perfect Rear Window sort of situation for your mettlesome neighbors.)

Keep in mind that this is an ancient folk remedy and very amenable to adaptation based on what's available in your garden and pantry (though the basic ingredients of ginger, horseradish, garlic, onions and cider vinegar should not be moved). Feel free to experiment with all manner of herbs and spices, citrus and chili peppers. Of course, for maximum effectiveness, herbalists recommend organic ingredients and starting with an organic, non-pasteurized cider like Bragg's.

Once your fire cider is ready, you can drink it by the dropper full as a twice-daily tonic, by the tablespoon full when you're sick or use it as a flavoring agent in all sorts of dishes—(mixed with oil for salad dressing or to flavor stir-fries, grilled meats, roasted vegetables, dips and cocktails).

Here it is (taken from the Mountain Rose Herbs website mountainroseblog.com).

Fire Cider

1/2 cup freshly grated ginger root

1/2 cup freshly grated horseradish root

1 medium onion, chopped

10 cloves of organic garlic, crushed or chopped

2+ jalapeno peppers, chopped

Juice and zest of one lemon

Several sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 tbsp. of dried rosemary leaves

1 tbsp. turmeric powder

Apple cider vinegar (enough to cover other ingredients)

Raw local honey to taste

Place chopped ingredients, lemon juice, zest and herbs in a quart-sized jar. Pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover. Place small piece of parchment paper or wax paper over the mouth of the jar and screw on the lid. Give the jar a shake then store in a dark, cool place for one to three months. Try to shake daily (I can hear Siri's automated voice: "It's time to shake the fire cider.")

After letting the fire cider amass its powers for at least one month, strain out pulp with cheesecloth, pouring the liquid into a clean jar. (Don't throw the pulp away! Use it to rocket launch your stir-fries and soups.)

Kapow! And on the 28th day, there was fire cider. That's all it takes to harness the great elemental powers and take winter wellness into your own hands.

Now go share with your friends.

 

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