Fire cider is the best kind of medicine; it is strong, spicy, zesty, and sweet. A teaspoon of this fiery liquid provides the perfect jump start for your immune system this time of year. Fire cider is a timeless remedy, an oxymel, combining apple cider vinegar, honey, and potent herbs such as onion, horseradish, ginger, garlic and cayenne. Unfortunately someone in the herbal community has attempted to trademark fire cider. I have always associated fire cider with Rosemary Gladstar and Vermont folkways. Fire cider is part of our commons, our community medicine. So join me in making your own fire cider today, on free fire cider day.
I stopped using fire cider ten years ago when I developed an intolerance for onions. I missed this fiery boost, especially at the beginning of cold and flu season. This year when I saw how well our crop of horseradish was spreading, I was determined to make a batch of onion-free fire cider.
In place of the onion I decided to use some chopped fennel stems that I had left from juicing fennel bulbs. I included our garden horseradish and garlic, as well as young ginger and turmeric root from the farmers market. I decided to add some hawthorn berries for circulation, and cardamom seeds to ease digestion.
We harvested and processed a lot of horseradish this year. We processed enough to make 8 jars of prepared horseradish, a bottle of fire cider, and a bottle of horseradish infused vodka for Bloody Marys. I recommend using the food processor to grate horseradish, but please be cautious when opening the lid, the fumes can be very intense.
Horseradish is easy to grow, but it can spread quickly and take over. It is a little sweeter after the first killing frost, but it usually harvested from early autumn to early spring.
Fire Cider, an onion free version
This recipe yields less than a quart of fire cider.
Quart mason jar, wide mouth, with a lid
A quart bottle
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup grated horseradish
1 cup chopped fresh fennel
3 Tablespoons dried hawthorn berries
3 Tablespoons fresh chopped ginger
2 -3 Tablespoons fresh grated turmeric root
1 Tablespoon black cardamom seeds
Optional additions: a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme, grated burdock root, a handful of dried pear slices, or sliced lemons.
Apple cider vinegar
Raw honey to taste
1 - 2 pinches of cayenne
Add garlic, horseradish, fennel, hawthorn berries, ginger, turmeric, cardamom and any additional items to a wide mouth quart jar. Pour apple cider vinegar over the other ingredients, keeping the vinegar about two to three inches above the other ingredients. Stir with the chopstick to release any air bubbles. Cover and let the cider infuse for four to six weeks in a cool, dark place. Strain into a bottle and discard spent herbs. Add cayenne and honey to taste. Stir or shake well.
Take the fire cider by the teaspoonful. Add a teaspoon of fire cider to a glass of apple cider or pear juice. My favorite way to enjoy it is in a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of honey. Add fire cider to marinades, salad dressing, or sauces, or anywhere that could use a zesty, healthful boost.
Horseradish Infused Vodka
I have wanted to make horseradish vodka and I am so pleased with the results. I made it to use in Bloody Marys, but we discovered that it makes a delightful hot toddy. For some reason horseradish and honey taste really good together.
1/4 cup grated horseradish
1 pint vodka
Add horseradish and vodka to a pint mason jar. Cover and let infuse for four - five weeks. Strain through a fine mesh strainer (use a small basket style coffee filter in the strainer for the clearest results). Keep the bottle in the refrigerator or the freezer.
Here are two drinks that feature horseradish infused vodka:
Horseradish Hot Toddy
This is deliciously powerful medicine
1 heaping teaspoon of raw honey, or more to taste
¼ of a lemon
2 teaspoons of horseradish infused vodka, or more to taste
A cup of boiling water
Add the honey to a tea cup, squeeze the quarter lemon into the cup and add spent fruit to cup. Add the infused vodka and hot water. Stir well.
A Kick in the Pants No. 101
This is a variation of the Benjamin Wayne Smith cocktail from Molly Wizenberg's wonderful book, Delancey. It is one of our favorite cocktails.
1 ounce London dry gin
½ ounce of horseradish vodka
1/4 to 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, optional
1 garlic clove, sliced in 4 slices
1 pinch of flake salt, I used Jacobsen
1 pinch of ground black pepper
2 dashes of orange bitters
Add everything to a shaker and shake hard and well. Strain through a mesh strainer into a small cocktail or Nick & Nora glass.