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Saturday, February 22, 2014

DIY Fire Cider Winter Tonic


Fire cider* is a spicy vinegar-based tonic used to promote good health during winter months. This folk remedy has a long tradition of varied uses which include
  • Clearing congestion
  • Fighting infections
  • Improving digestion
  • Curing hangovers
  • Increasing circulation

Traditional recipes usually include ginger, garlic, onion, chili peppers, and horseradish, steeped in vinegar then strained and mixed with honey. My recipe also includes thyme leaves, lemon zest, and cinnamon for extra flavor and added health benefits.

This elixir can be taken daily as a master tonic or used as acute immune support when symptoms of infection or congestion appear. It can be taken by the teaspoon, like a medicine, or mixed into water, hot tea, or juice. It can also be used in place of vinegar in vinaigrettes, marinades, and soups. Or it can be used as condiment to dress vegetables and meats.

To maximize the transfer of medicinal compounds from the aromatics, which will be strained out eventually, to the vinegar, it's important to create as much surface area as possible by mincing or grating the solid ingredients.

¼ cup minced fresh unpeeled ginger root
¼ cup minced fresh garlic
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup minced fresh horseradish
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves or 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
4 chili peppers (or more)
Zest of 1 organic lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons raw, local honey

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a pint-sized glass jar and add enough vinegar to fill it almost to the top. All of the ingredients should be fully submerged in the vinegar.

Cover with a plastic lid or a layer of waxed paper and a metal lid.

Set the jar aside for a month or more. During the first few days, check frequently to ensure that the solids are submerged. If they aren't, add more vinegar. After that, occasionally shake it up and open the lid to release any gases.

After the mixture has steeped for a month or more (longer is better), pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and press out the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.

Transfer it to a clean glass jar and stir in the honey until fully dissolved. Taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Store at room temperature or in the fridge.

*Shire City Herbals has trademarked "Fire Cider" to refer to their commercial product even though this term has been used by herbalists for decades and the basic concept has been around even longer as a traditional home remedy. When used as a general description of this age-old elixir, which is the way I use it here, "fire cider" refers to a variety of recipes that share in common vinegar steeped with medicinal aromatics and sweetened with honey.

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