Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is dropping in today with a recipe for homemade fire cider. This invigorating tonic is said to help boost your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the winter cold and flu season! -Marisa
Where I am in Philadelphia, the leaves are changing, the air is getting cooler after a warm start to fall, and root crops are ready to harvest.
That means it’s time to start a batch of homemade fire cider.
This spicy, bracing infusion has been used for centuries as a way to preserve herbs and vegetables that also have medicinal value. Whipping up a big batch at the end of the growing season means that you’ve got a tasty tonic to sip on or use in recipes like sauces, marinades, and salad dressings.
I first tried making this recipe years ago, when I was a CSA manager tasked with finding with a handful of new and interesting recipes to include with each share of vegetables. One week, we included horseradish in the boxes, and I came upon the now familiar recipe.
I loved the ritual, the acidic flavor, and the kick — a powerful whoosh of horseradish, garlic, and onion straight to the nose. I’m not sure whether it was thanks to the homemade fire cider or something else, but I didn’t get sick that winter.
Fire cider has been used for centuries, but it wasn’t called that until the 1970s, when herbalist Rosemary Gladstar coined the name. Herbal practitioners and crunchy folks everywhere recommend taking doses throughout the day when you first feel a winter cold or flu coming on, or you can take a spoonful each morning to help stave off those pesky infections before they start.
And in recent years, it’s even become mainstream — so much so that one company tried to trademark the term, much to the chagrin of the herbal community. This is sort of like trademarking the idea of pizza, or jam — especially because one key characteristic of fire cider is that it doesn’t have a set recipe.
In fact, you’ll notice that horseradish — a staple of every fire cider recipe I’ve seen — isn’t in the photo of my batch. That’s because I couldn’t find a single root. I was too early for the farmers in my area, and none of the larger stores, even Whole Foods and Wegman’s, had it in stock when I looked.
Since I had fresh young ginger and turmeric on hand, I decided to go ahead and make my annual batch of fire cider anyway. If I can get ahold of some horseradish root in the next few weeks, I’ll simply chop it up and add to the infusion then, maybe giving the mix a little extra time to infuse. No big deal!
The tonic is typically a combination of hot peppers, alliums and roots like garlic, onion, horseradish, turmeric, and ginger, plus citrus, herbs, and spices, infused into apple cider vinegar. Chop up the veggies and herbs and mix with the vinegar, then stash the recipe in a dark place for at least a month.
Strain, add honey, bottle, and take as needed — Rosemary Gladstar’s recommendation is a few tablespoons at the first symptoms of a cold, then another dose every few hours until you’re feeling better. Or take a tablespoon or so each day as a winter tonic.
That’s the basic template, but the variations are endless. Rosemary and black pepper are considered standard, but echinacea root, lemongrass, and thyme can also be added for extra immune-boosting power. Or throw some tulsi (a.k.a. holy basil, one of my favorite herbs for cooking and for medicine) into the mix to help you handle wintertime stress, too.
Take a look at the recipe below for this year’s version here in my kitchen. Have you made or tried fire cider before? Do you use any immune-boosting foods or herbal remedies to keep yourself feeling good through winter? Let us know in the comments!
How to Make Fire Cider
- 1 quart raw apple cider vinegar Bragg's is a good brand
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 bulbs garlic
- 1 organic lemon sliced
- A few inches each fresh young turmeric root and fresh young ginger root OR 1 tablespoon dried powdered turmeric and 2 tablespoons dried ginger you can also use mature fresh turmeric and ginger root, just peel before chopping
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary OR 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 2-3 cayenne peppers a few jalapenos, or 1 habanero pepper, chopped OR 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup honey optional
- 1 sliced orange a few inches of chopped horseradish root, a few teaspoons fresh or dried thyme, lemongrass, parsley, echinacea root, or tulsi
- Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Chop the other vegetables, roots, and herbs, taking care to wear gloves when handling fresh turmeric (it will stain surfaces, including hands) and hot peppers.
- Add the chopped vegetables to a half-gallon jar (you can also roughly halve this recipe and make it in a quart jar; you'll end up with about a pint of fire cider). Add the spices to the jar.
- Add apple cider vinegar until the jar is full. Cover with a plastic or glass lid, or place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper between the top of the jar and a metal lid before sealing so the vinegar doesn't corrode the metal.
- Label with the date and store in a cool, dark place for 1 month. After 1 month, strain the mixture, pressing the vegetables well to capture all the infused vinegar. Add honey to taste if desired, then shake or stir well to mix. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.
- Take a spoonful or so each day as a winter tonic, or take 1-2 tablespoons when you first feel cold symptoms, then another dose every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside.
Oh, I was so hoping for a recommendation for where to find horseradish in Philly!
I think I just had bad luck! Multiple places I tried said they had recently had it but were out at the time. Wegman’s and Iovine’s in Reading Terminal seem like a good bet based on that.
I have also seen fire cider recipes that use prepared horseradish but I’m not sure how that would convert.
I found some! Fresh Grocer & 40th & Walnut 🙂
If you add honey, and don’t refrigerate, won’t it ferment and get fizzy? Do you need to check it so they don’t explode while they’re sitting for those weeks?
You add the honey to taste once the mixture has had time to sit and steep. So it’s not in there at a point when it could ferment and cause trouble.
I’ve always added honey to the strained tincture and left it on my counter (usually putting it back in the Bragg’s bottle) without any issues, but other recipes I’ve seen have said to refrigerate.
I have made a batch every winter for several years now. In fact, our local herbal society even had a taste testing of several last season. I keep a shot glass next to the bottle on the kitchen counter and try to take it every morning. This year I grew my own turmeric to go in the batch.
Awesome! The fresh young turmeric you see in the photo came from Tooth of the Lion Apothecary, based in Berks County here in Pennsylvania. I’ve been cooking with it for the past several weeks — delicious!
Do I need to worry about spoilage? Refrigerate after adding honey?
Once strained, it’s essentially vinegar and honey. Those are two ingredients that don’t really spoil. Provided that you use it within the season, you should be ok. However, if it feels better to you, by all means, refrigerate!
the recipe calls for two bulbs garlic would this be two cloves or two whole garlic plants
I used two whole bulbs (10-12 cloves). You want this to be nice and pungent and medicinal!
I love fire cider. I’ve been making it for the past few years. Last year I made it almost 11 months before I caught a cold. I’ve never tried it with rosemary or black pepper. I will probably be making a batch this weekend so maybe I’ll try some in it.
What is the difference between Young Tumeric & Ginger Vs. Mature – and how do we know the difference?
Hi Lisa, you can use either kind of fresh turmeric here. Young turmeric will be harvested in the fall (around now in the mid-Atlantic where I am). Chances are you won’t see this in the grocery store, but at a farmers’ market, as many small organic farmers are now experimenting with growing this tropical tuber in high tunnels and greenhouses. The same goes for ginger.
Young turmeric is what I had on hand, so that’s what I used. You can also use full-grown fresh turmeric, which will be darker orange and have a tougher skin and probably what you would purchase at an Asian or Indian grocer or at a well-stocked supermarket like MOM’s or Whole Foods. The only difference is intensity of flavor and that young turmeric doesn’t seem to stain my hands/cutting board the way full-grown turmeric does.
You can also use powdered turmeric, as I state in the recipe, so don’t worry about tracking down rare ingredients unless you really want to!
What’s the best thing to do if you add the honey at the beginning and only realize afterwards that it was a post-brewing ingredient? Ferment it in the refrigerator? Leave it in a cool dark place and hope for the best? I’d really rather not pitch it…
I would let it steep in the fridge to keep it from fermenting.
Hi – in the photo you have 2 quarts of vinegar but the recipe just calls for 1. Is this recipe just for 1 quart?
Ah I realized you probably have the smaller bottles of vinegar!
Good eye! I did grab 2 quart bottles of Bragg’s ACV. I planned to fill a half-gallon jar, which is what you see in the picture, but I wasn’t sure how much space my chopped roots and veggies would take up. So I made to sure to have a second bottle on hand in case the jar needed topping off after the first quart.
If you’re making a smaller batch, like in a quart-sized jar, you should only need a quart bottle of Bragg’s.
After you make it do you store in fridge or pantry?
I’ve done both with success (I also have a pretty cold kitchen in the winter) but most recipes say to store it in the fridge.
I don’t have a horseradish root, and I was about to use FC using prepared horseradish. Does that mean this will have to stay in the fridge for the 4 weeks? Or should I wait and get a root instead?
I’d recommend getting a root (you can make the fire cider with what you have now and grate and ad the horseradish root when you get one, as I did), as prepared horseradish sometimes has preservatives, etc that you may not want in your fire cider (check the label). However, based on a little online research, it sounds like others have had success using prepared, so if you’re comfortable with it and don’t want to have to track down a fresh root, give it a try.
I accidentally added honey when I made a batch. Don’t know if I should throw it away and start another batch
The risk is that it might turn boozy with the early addition of the honey. You might want to age this batch in the fridge rather than at room temperature to help prevent that.
I don’t see any mention, does anyone use this as a salad dressing?
I forgot to strain mine for 3 months! Is it still ok??
I shook it still every few days, but just got lazy and never did it.
Is it still good?
Strain it and see! It’s probably fine.
Can this be water bath canned, does anyone know?
The final, strained product could be water bath canned, but if you used raw vinegar, heating it would kill off the beneficial bacteria that’s present. Because it is essentially just infused vinegar, it doesn’t really need to be canned to keep for a long time.
Can you use Wasabi for the horseradish if you can find it in the store,?
And how much?
I would not swap in wasabi for the horseradish. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful here.
I accidentally added the honey as I mixing all the ingredients. Will this turn out or do I need to throw it all out?
It’s okay. I would suggest that you move the jar to the fridge, as the presence of honey could cause the mixture to start fermenting.
My four weeks is up and I just realized the plastic lid I put on my canning jar isn’t actually air tight will it be okay?
It should be okay.