Fire cider to the rescue.
It’s cold, REALLY COLD, here in North Adams, Massachusetts. As we hunker down for our biggest winter storm of the season, we turn to fire cider to warm up. It’s tasty, easy to make—and best of all—it’s an effective remedy for many of the cold, damp conditions of winter. You can drink it as a daily tonic to keep healthy throughout winter; take it at the first sign of a cold or the flu to mobilize your immune system; dilute it in a little warm water or juice as an energizing winter drink; and even add it to soups, salad dressings, and other dishes for a little extra kick.
To get you started, we’re sharing a fire cider electuary and a switchel recipe (something you can make today) from Dawn Combs of Mockingbird Meadows and Soda Farm. And an apple cider vinegar recipe (which takes a bit longer, giving meaning to the saying “good things come to those who wait”) from Ferment Works’ very own Kirsten K. Shockey. These are just a few of the 101 fun, fabulous (and sassy!) recipes featured in Fire Cider! by Rosemary Gladstar.
Fire Cider Electuary
By Dawn Combs of Mockingbird Meadows and Soda Pharm. We have made the traditional fire cider in vinegar infusion for a long time, but since electuaries — powdered herbs mixed with honey — are our thing, we couldn’t resist putting a new spin on two old medicine ways.
- 1 teaspoon horseradish powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼–½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground lemon peel
- ¼ teaspoon ground sumac berry
- 1 cup raw honey
- Combine the powders and stir into the honey. Allow the mixture to sit at least 24 hours before using to allow the herbs to blend smoothly with the honey. Once your fire cider electuary is prepared, you can either eat it by the teaspoonful or add it to apple cider vinegar to make our favorite switchel recipe.
Fire Cider Switchel
Also by Dawn Combs.
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (preferably raw) - buy it or make your own (Apple Cider recipe follows)
- 2 tablespoons fire cider electuary (see above)
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1 small or ½ large citrus fruit of your choice (we like lime)
- Seltzer water
- Combine the vinegar, electuary, and citrus juice. Stir. Divide the resulting syrupy mixture evenly between two 12-ounce glasses. Add ice. Top with seltzer water, stir, and enjoy!
Apple Cider Vinegar
By Kirsten K. Shockey of Ferment Works. When I make fire cider, I use my own homemade apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is a powerful medicinal food that is made more dynamic by the herbs that make fire cider. If you have access to fresh apples, freshly pressed apple cider, an artisan farmhouse hard cider, or even a good-quality jarred apple juice, then you can make your own cider vinegar.
- 1 gallon fresh apple cider or good-quality juice
- 1 teaspoon (1 gram) champagne yeast, or bread yeast if you have no access to an alcohol-style yeast
- A vinegar mother plus ½ cup unfiltered unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (or 1 cup unfiltered unpasteurized apple cider vinegar if you don’t have a vinegar mother)
- Pour the apple cider into a 1-gallon jar, leaving a little room for the mother or raw vinegar (but don’t add that yet).
- Sprinkle the yeast on top of the juice and allow it to hydrate on top of the juice for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir it in.
- When the juice settles and is still, place the mother on top. Sometimes it will float, which is ideal, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. Pour in the raw vinegar.
- Cover the jar with a piece of unbleached cotton; this can be butter muslin, tightly woven cheesecloth, or a clean tea towel. Secure it with a string or rubber band, or screw the ring from the jar over the cloth. This is to keep out fruit flies.
- Place the jar out of the way in a spot that stays around 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C). Feel free to check every few weeks to see if there is a mother growing on the surface. She will look very thin, wispy and translucent at first. Try not to knock the jar, and there is no need to stir; you don’t want the new mother to sink.
- After the mother has formed, the vinegar can continue to age for at least 1 to 2 months or longer in a cooler place. After about 2 to 3 months you can carefully remove the mother (saving it for another batch or to share) and bottle the vinegar. You should have about 3 quarts. At this point the vinegar is stable, and you can use it immediately or continue to age it. The flavor will mellow with aging.
Vinegar is usually a two-step fermentation. The first step employs yeast to turn fresh juices into alcohol (ethanol); it’s how we make wine, hard cider, and even beer. Why do we need alcohol to make vinegar? Because acetobacters—the microbes that produce acetic acid (vinegar)—don’t consume the sugar you’ll find in juice. They consume ethanol, and in doing so convert the alcohol to vinegar. You can imagine that brewers work hard to keep acetobacters out of their tanks!
This recipe starts before the alcohol develops and use a simplified simultaneous (one-step) fermentation process. You add yeast (which converts the juice sugars into ethanol) and the vinegar “mother” (which is full of the acetobacters that convert the ethanol into vinegar) at the same time. Don’t worry—the microbes will work it out. This method will save you a little bit of the (oh so hard to wait) fermenting time.
Note: To make vinegar with already fermented hard cider or wine, simply add 1⁄2 cup unfiltered unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to every 750 ml of alcohol—which should be under 9 percent ABV—and age as described here.
Photo by Kristin K. Shockey, excerpted from Fire Cider!