Fire Tonic (Season of Self-Care: 2)

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Chock full of warming ingredients, variations on Rosemary Gladstar’s original fire cider recipe is how I keep the internal fires burning throughout the winter months and into the spring.

If you’re not familiar with the idea of fire cider, it’s basically a mess of beautiful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antifungal roots, vegetables, fruits, and herbs all steeped together in apple cider vinegar for a while, and then consumed as an immune, circulatory, and digestive support tonic in as wide a variety of ways as there are to actually make the stuff. It’s a traditional folk medicine with a standard base of ingredients that can be dressed up or kept simple to suit your needs and desires. It’s an ongoing, evolving experiment for me and, so far, I haven’t met a fire cider I didn’t like.

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You can tailor your tonic to what’s available, and to the flavors you generally like.  I start making up batches during late summer, when I have lots of hot peppers in the garden, but I still have a few of them still miraculously looking half-way decent in my fridge, so I’ll make one last round now, so we have enough to get us through the season. I like to have a good kick of spice in mine, from both fresh and dried peppers, to keep my blood moving when the temp drops. Some folks I know like to go heavy on the citrus or include herbs like rosemary or star anise.

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How do you make it?

Some recipes provide measurements, but in my house, it’s more of a non-recipe, but figure about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of each “handful.”

I start with a quart-sized mason jar.
The basic building blocks of fire cider are onions, garlic, horseradish*, hot peppers, and ginger.
I mince or grate about a 1/2 cup or solid handful of each and dump them in the jar. Most recipes use about 1/4 cup of garlic, but I am an enormous fan of garlic in natural remedies and tend to go overboard with it, if that’s even a thing. I’m known to double, triple, or quadruple the garlic in any recipe in my kitchen, so do what feels right to you.

Now, you can play. Suggestions for additions include:

Lemon slices
Orange slices
Grapefruit slices (or just the peels and/or juice of any of the citrus options)
Peppercorns
Rosemary
Star Anise
Oregano
Thyme
Turmeric (this one is a must for me, and if I can’t find fresh, I just throw in a tablespoon of turmeric powder)
Astragalus
Rose Hips
Cayenne

When you’re satisfied, pour Apple Cider Vinegar over everything, to the top of the jar. Cover tightly and let steep from 4 – 12 weeks. Or more. I like to let mine go for at least two months before pouring off the liquid. Sometimes, if I have several batches going, I don’t bother straining until I’m ready to use it.

Then what?

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For daily use, I put about a tablespoon of fire cider into a little warm water. You can add honey to your cider if you’d like, but I leave it out because I like to keep my use options open. If I’m not drinking it straight-up, I may put it in salad dressings in place of regular vinegar, or into soups, stews, or marinades.
I triple-up the intake if I feel a little something coming on, and if there’s a cough involved, that’s when I mix in some honey.

It’s also great used topically for sore muscles, or soaked into a warm cloth for a chest compress to relieve congestion.

Oh, and the solid pulp you’re left with after straining?

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I like to stick it in the dehydrator, grind it up, and then mix with salt for a seasoned salt blend, which will add a spicy, warming kick to grilled and roasted veggies and meats, or to soups and stews.

*Why horseradish?
It, like many of the other ingredients, has antibacterial and antibiotic properties, and is a digestive stimulant. If you can’t find fresh horseradish root, don’t fret. You can leave it out and still have a punchy, immune-boosting tonic. It’s a powerhouse, but it’s one of many, and if it’s the only thing you can’t find, it’s still worth making your tonic!

Also, this necessary bit:

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional.

Fire it up!