The first time I heard of fire cider, I knew I would like it even before tasting it. It has all the fiery flavors I love including hot peppers, horseradish, garlic, and ginger, to name a few. Add the sweetness of honey and the tangy bite of apple cider vinegar and I was sold! I like to keep a bottle in my cupboard during the winter months and I take little swigs from time to time, usually when it’s really cold outside and I need my insides warmed and my body energized.
Fire Cider is made up of apple cider vinegar and honey that has been infused with chopped vegetables and herbs. It’s a traditional home remedy that was created and popularized by acclaimed herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in the 1970s. It contains many ingredients that have been studied for their antibacterial and health enhancing properties and it is said to help with digestion, boost the immune and circulatory systems, and clear the sinuses. It’s also delicious to use in recipes that call for vinegar and could benefit from a bit of spicy zest.
I’ve always wanted to make my own fire cider but for some reason I was intimidated by the process. I imagined it to be a lot more complicated and time consuming than it is. That’s why I was so grateful to get my hands on Kathi Langelier’s gorgeous book, Herbal Revolution: 65+ Recipes for Teas, Elixirs, Tinctures, Syrups, Foods + Body Products That Heal.
Kathi is a Maine-based herbalist and organic farmer and what she does with herbs is exquisite. Two of my favorite products she makes are her Chaga Chai Tea and her “Attitude Adjustment Elixir” (and boy have I ever needed that one lately!) Her book continues to teach me so much about how to preserve and use the herbs I grow in my garden, some of which I never really knew how to use. It also finally got me over my fear of making fire cider and made me realize how easy it is to prepare it at home. I was excited to put together my first batch this year, almost entirely from ingredients grown in my garden. I especially love how Kathi encourages people to customize the recipe. There’s the basic recipe but then you can add different ingredients based on your personal taste. And I love Kathi’s many uses for fire cider including deglazing a pan or making salad dressing with it!
When I first heard of Kathi and her fellow herbalists’ lengthy legal battle to bring fire cider back into the public domain after a company attempted to trademark the term, I felt that their incredible story really needed to be made into a film. I never got a chance to make that film, but I’m glad that through this Kitchen Vignettes episode, a tiny piece of Kathi’s epic story can be shared along with her conviction that traditional plant medicine is meant to be shared widely and generously.
Kathi Langelier’s Fire Cider
This recipe is courtesy Kath Langelier, from her book Herbal Revolution.
- ½ cup (72 g) grated fresh horseradish
- ⅓ cup (36 g) grated fresh ginger
- 1 large red or yellow onion
- 5–10 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1–3 fresh hot peppers, such as jalapeños, cayenne or habanero
- 2–4 tbsp (40–80 g) honey, or more to taste
- 4 cups (960 ml) raw organic apple cider vinegar
- Optional Additions:
- Oranges and/or lemons
- Bee Balm
- Rosemary and/or Thyme
- Grate the horseradish and ginger using a box grater, or run them through the grater on a food processor. Be aware, the fumes from grating horseradish can be intense and can burn—think wasabi.
- Place the horseradish and ginger in a 1-quart jar. Chop the onion, garlic and hot peppers or run them through the food processor with the shredding attachment, then place in the jar.
- Add whichever extra ingredients you would like as well as the honey. Fill the jar completely with the raw apple cider vinegar, label the jar, then cover and allow it to infuse. If you’re using a metal lid, you may want to place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap under the lid so the vinegar does not corrode the metal. For best results, you’ll want to let your fire cider sit for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Store it in a place where you’ll see it and shake it every week. After 4 to 6 weeks, strain the liquid into a clean labeled quart jar or bottles and enjoy! (Tip from Kathi: you save the ingredients that get strained out and chop them up to use as a chutney or garnish on dishes that need a little flavor punch).
- Fire cider can be consumed in small quantities on its own. Some people like to dilute it in water since it is very strong. But as Kathi suggests, you can also cook with it. She adds it to salad dressings, in place of regular vinegar. She puts it in soups or roasted veggies, and makes it into drinks such as Bloody Marys or the Rise & Shine Tonic from her cookbook. So don’t be shy about getting creative with it!
Yield: 4 cups
Aube Giroux is a food writer, a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker and a passionate organic gardener and home cook, who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.