Fire Cider Puts the ‘Kick’ in Health Kick

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And it’s a good way to use up random leftovers.

By the time I pulled up to the FARM Institute on an overcast Saturday morning in January, I had already had my regular dose of caffeine (two cups of black coffee), some fruit, and my morning supplements. 

In the winter, I try to keep up with my fitness and avoid gorging myself on junk food that seems to exacerbate bouts of seasonal affective disorder. I try to get regular sunlight — especially first thing in the morning and in the afternoon, and I’ve been focusing on my mindfulness practice. But let’s face it, it’s hard to keep up with your mental and physical health during the cold and dim months. So I was looking forward to arming myself with yet another tool to stay healthy all winter long.

It’s commonly called fire cider in the “food as medicine” community, and is purported to have benefits that pair nicely with a cold-season diet that’s high in fiber-rich, probiotic foods. Sometimes this piquant concoction is made with cayenne pepper or whole chili peppers. Other times it includes exotic anti-inflammatories like elderberry, beet root powder, or whole grapefruits and oranges. Whatever your chosen ingredients, the whole process is capped off by filling your jar of this and that with apple cider vinegar.

The instructor for this fire cider course was organic gardener and healthy food enthusiast Laurisa Rich, who said she enjoys taking fire cider when she feels a cold coming on, and enjoys making the potent tincture just as much as she does tasting it. “I am a big lover of fermentation,” Rich said as she passed around some glasses for participants to try the fire cider she’d recently strained. “I love the idea of embracing other life forms into our bodies, and how our microbiome benefits from anything fermented.”

The version of fire cider we’re concocting includes a ton of foods that are well-known for having antioxidant properties, such as onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and others. I happen to love each of these ingredients, so working with them all together was a pleasure. It took some practice cutting up all the different ingredients, but, ultimately, I was able to get a fine chop — you want to expose plenty of surface area to extract the health-promoting compounds. 

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Rich reminded the group that, although this is a fermentation 101 class, we wouldn’t be fermenting anything that day. “The apple cider vinegar that was supplied for this project is fermented. If I really had everything together, I would have started a batch of apple cider vinegar— it’s very easy to make with cores and peels and scraps,” Rich said. 

As I progressed through the steps toward my final product— assembling my tools and ingredients, chopping, and mixing — I began to realize how flexible and far-reaching this fire cider recipe could be. The limits of what to include in your jar are pretty much endless. “Of course, the ingredients you choose and the quantities you choose are subject to preference and availability, based on what you have in your garden, what you’ve been able to collect out in the world, or what’s at your local supermarket,” Rich said. 

Each wonderful vegetable, spice, and herb was organic — an important aspect to consider when you know not even the skins of an onion or nubs of ground-down turmeric will go to waste (they all get chucked in the jar).

Each wonderful vegetable, spice, and herb was organic — an important aspect to consider when you know not even the skins of an onion or nubs of ground-down turmeric will go to waste (they all get chucked in the jar). Education coordinator for the FARM Institute, Lily Robbins, provided most of the pungent array of probiotic, vasodilating foods (that is, those that help increase your blood vessesls’ ability to carry more blood). The garlic was grown at the FARM Institute, the onions were from Morning Glory Farm, and the horseradish was straight from Rich’s garden. “It had dirt on it about an hour or two ago,” Rich said, and I could tell by the smell. 

The garlic was grown at the FARM Institute, the onions were from Morning Glory Farm, and the horseradish was straight from Rich’s garden. “It had dirt on it about an hour or two ago,” Rich said, and I could tell by the smell.

After everyone in the room had a cutting board filled with colorful chopped veggies and spices, and everyone’s hands were bright orange from grating turmeric, it was time to stuff the jar. I attempted to layer my creation to make it as aesthetically pleasing as I could, but Rich reminded me that the colors meld together at a certain point into the infusion process. “If you’re really in a hurry, toss it all in a powerful blender or Vitamix so that the menstruum can really be drawn out readily. You really want to pulverize it, and then the infusion won’t take as long,” Rich explained. 

I packed my jar and then filled it with apple cider vinegar,  and labeled it “fire cider experiment, take a taste on Feb. 15.” You want to let the jar sit in a cool, dark place for about a month (or more) in order for everything to break down. Flip the jar and shake lightly every day to support all those fascinating little chemical processes, and before long you’ll have some seriously tasty and immune-boosting medicine.

Ingredients

1 medium organic onion**, chopped, include skin (immune stimulant, vitamin C, antibacterial, anti-viral)

10 cloves of organic garlic**, crushed with skin (immune & circulatory stimulant, antibacterial, anti-viral, expectorant)

1⁄4 – 1⁄2 cup organic ginger root, grated or chopped fine (warming, circulatory & immune stimulant, decongestant, expectorant, antibacterial)

1⁄4 – 1⁄2 cup organic horseradish root, grated or chopped fine (warming, circulatory & immune stimulant, astringent to dry up mucous secretions. Omit during pregnancy)

2 Tbsp. organic turmeric grated or chopped fine OR 1 Tbsp organic turmeric powder (anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, anodyne, astringent)

2 Tbsp. of dried rosemary leaves OR 1⁄3 cup fresh (circulatory stimulant, astringent, antibacterial, calming, expectorant)

1-2 hot peppers or 1/4 tsp. organic cayenne powder (induces sweating, expectorant, anodyne, stimulant)

10-15 peppercorns (decongestant, enhances absorption of turmeric compounds, anti-inflammatory)

Other Ingredient Variations: Thyme, Rose-hips, Star Anise, Elderberries, Schisandra Berries, Astragalus, Parsley, Burdock, Oregano, Beet Root Powder, Whole Chili Peppers, Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon or Lime chunks…

Directions

  1. Prepare your chosen ingredients and place them in a quart-sized glass jar. All ingredients and quantities are subject to your liking and availability.
  2. Add organic and unfiltered apple cider vinegar*** to the jar until the ingredients are covered and content rises to 1⁄4 inch from the rim.
  3. Seal with a plastic lid or natural parchment paper under a metal lid and shake well. Write approximate harvest date on the jar.
  4. Infuse in a dim, cool place 3–5 weeks and shake daily as possible.
  5. Harvest: Strain out the pulp, pouring the infused vinegar into a clean jar or bottle (approximately 1 pint) squeezing as much liquid as you can from the pulp. Don’t discard pulp — it’s still potent and flavorful. Usage ideas below.
  6. Add 1⁄4 cup local honey to the infused vinegar. Shake until incorporated. Taste your blend and add more honey until you reach the desired sweetness.
  7. Label and store small amounts for your countertop ‘cocktail’ bar or purse. Keep the labeled reserve in the fridge for up to a year.

Dosage and How to Use:

Common dosages range from 1–2 tsp to 1–2 Tbsp per day, starting with small doses. If getting the cold or flu, take 1 Tbsp 3 x a day OR 1 tsp every half-hour or as often as needed. Blend the strained pulp with some olive oil and mix with shredded veggies like carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and fresh herbs for a coleslaw or add infused oil to stir-fries and spring rolls. Or blend and dry the pulp to make a seasoning spice.

*Consult your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications. Many of the ingredients in fire cider may interfere with them. 
The Farm Institute’s next helpful fermentation class on March 4 will teach you to make sauerkraut. Here’s the info.

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Lucas Thors
Lucas Thors
Lucas Thors is an associate editor for Bluedot Living and program director for the Bluedot Institute. He lives on Martha's Vineyard with his English springer spaniel, Arlo, and enjoys writing about environmental initiatives in his community.
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2 COMMENTS

  1. What a great story Lucas!! I taught a knife skills class last week at the Farm Institute and Laurisa took the class. She gift me a bottle of the fire cider, and I was blown away at how delicious it is, so I am loving taking a spoonful a day to ward off whatever comes my way. After class, I told her I was in an insomnia bout. She ran out to her car and brought back a tiny tincture bottle of herbs she had concocted, and I think it’s helping.

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