Get Warmed Up with “Fire Cider”

By Karen O’Brien

DSC06193At this time of year, people often investigate remedies for winter ailments, be it the flu, colds, or even just warming brews. Many herbalists make a version of a vinegar-based drink called “fire cider,”* guaranteed to warm you up and may just possibly help with warding off upper respiratory infections. I always have a batch brewing, as I don’t want to be caught without this when the winds blow and the winter descends.

Made with apple cider vinegar, this drink is sure to wake you up and wow your taste buds. DSC06194(Apple cider vinegar is made by adding yeast to apple juice, which breaks down the sugars into alcohol. Then, other bacteria are added to turn the alcohol into acetic acid. These bacteria are what’s referred to as the “mother.” Some brands of apple cider vinegar have had the “mother” filtered out for clarity; some brands retain it. The best kind of cider to use is one that has retained the “mother.”) I like it straight, but many add a spoonful of honey to “help the medicine go down.” You can add or subtract to the recipe as you see fit, or you can find many versions online. The typical ingredients are horseradish, garlic, onions, ginger, and hot pepper. I add turmeric to mine as I like the anti-inflammatory nature of that rhizome. Enjoy!

FIRE CIDER

DSC027331 large horseradish root, peeled

3 medium size fresh ginger rhizomes

5 – 6 fresh turmeric rhizomes

5 – 10 small hot peppers

2 small onions 

4 heads of garlic, peeled

Apple cider vinegar, enough to cover the ingredients, approximately 2 ½ quarts

Directions          

DSC01054Grate the horseradish in a food processor and place in a large bowl. Shred the turmeric, onions, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers and add to the bowl. Mix well. Place ingredients into two large (2-quart) canning jars and cover with apple cider vinegar. I used 2 1/2 quarts of vinegar with the “mother,” being sure I covered the shredded roots. If you don’t have the large jars, you can use any extra large wide-mouthed jar, or use several smaller ones. If using metal lids, be sure to place a layer of wax paper between the lid and jar, as vinegar will corrode the metal over time. Place in a dark place for 4-8 weeks, shake frequently, then strain and re-bottle. The strained fire cider will last several months in a cool place, but is best stored in the fridge. 

*There was a huge controversy in the herbal community some years ago when three herbalists were sued for marketing their own version of this herbal blend. A company had trademarked the term “fire cider” and went after these herbalists in order to protect their investment. After a long trial, it was determined that the words “fire cider” were, indeed, a generic term and could not be trademarked. See the following article on the herbalists’ fight in court: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/10/20/herbalists-defended-their-brew-court-they-won/r94hvWnBghLvdwsnw7W7JN/story.html

Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of the author.

Medicinal Disclaimer: It is the policy of The Herb Society of America, Inc. not to advise or recommend herbs for medicinal or health use. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation or an endorsement of any particular medical or health treatment. Please consult a health care provider before pursuing any herbal treatments.


Karen O’Brien is a Master Gardener and owner of  “The Green Woman’s Garden” (www.greenwomansgarden.com) in Richmond, New Hampshire. She lectures and presents workshops on all aspects of herbs and gardening. Karen is also the Northeast District Member Delegate for The Herb Society of America (HSA), was the Botany and Horticulture Chair of HSA, past Chair of The New England Unit of HSA, was past Secretary of the International Herb Association (IHA), and is Past President of the Greenleaf Garden Club of Milford, MA. She is the editor and contributing author to several Herb of the Year™ books, including Capsicum, Satureja, Artemisia, and Sambucus, produced by the IHA. Karen also writes a gardening column for the Richmond Rooster and is an alternate Agriculture Commission member for Richmond.

Make Herbal Vinegars

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Homemade herbal vinegars have been in Melissa McClelland’s kitchen for as long as she can remember. Her mom, Lenore McClelland — a long-time member of the Western Reserve Herb Society unit of The Herb Society of America — made them every year.

“While she may not have been the best cook on the face of the earth, she could make a mean vinaigrette,” laughs Melissa, a photo stylist who lives in Cleveland Heights and has turned her entire front yard into raised herb beds. Because of her mother Melissa has become quite the expert at infusing various vinegars, something she often gifts to friends.

Stevia-Tarragon-EnglishThyme-Marjoram

“I started out doing classic combinations like basil- or tarragon-infused white wine vinegar,” she says. “I love garlic so I always have a garlic vinegar on hand.”

20170704_100759 (2) “As I started doing them more I started thinking of the herb and spice mixtures that I love. I have a poultry seasoning combination that I love to do,” she says. “It’s great when making vinaigrette for a chicken salad. You have that built in flavor profile.” For poultry she uses 10 sprigs of thyme and four each of sage and rosemary per quart of white wine vinegar.

Another of her creations uses rinds from organic lemons and oranges with an herb or two.  Her favorite combinations include basil or thyme with orange. “They have been such useful combinations. It makes a nice base for marinating chicken or pork.”

“The newest I’m starting to experiment with is a Chinese five spice mix in rice wine vinegar to use in Chinese cooking,” says Melissa.  “I’m still working to get the ratios right.”

“Herbing” vinegar is relatively easy and has few health safety concerns, something Melissa appreciates.

She usually starts with a quart of vinegar – most often white wine or cider vinegar. She prefers organic cider vinegars for the health benefits. White vinegar, she says, can be harsh and red vinegars too strong.

“There are a couple of ways to make the herbal vinegar,” she say. “Some people pack the jars, strain then repackage with a decorate sprig. That gives them a super-saturated herbal flavor.”

“For me it’s been a balancing act. It’s easy when you love herbs and are enthusiastic to use too many. I like having it more subtle, I want to be able to use it freely.”

First, she sterilizes wide-mouth mason jars with boiling water. After placing herbs inside, she makes certain they’re fully immersed in vinegar. Then, she places the jar in a dark place for at least a week.  While she will strain and repackage for a gift, she may just leave the “pickled” herb in the jar for home use.

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Melissa keeps her home vinegars in a dark pantry. With vinegar’s preservative properties the infusions last a year and beyond.


When vinegars remain in mason jars with metal lids, the lids may rust. For gifting presentations consider Timbertops, eco-friendly bamboo storage lids for mason jars from masontops.com or their plastic lids or chalk tops. They make delightful presentations. Readers can get a 10 percent discount by entering the discount code HERBSOCIETY10. Discount expires August 11, 2017.