Last year at about this time, my friend Tom came by to get some freshly dug horseradish to make a recipe. A month later he returned with a jar of fire cider, an ancient folk medicine believed to enhance the immune system by helping the body cope with viruses and other microbes that make us sick. A probiotic mixture of garlic, ginger, horseradish, hot peppers and a few other ingredients, fire cider is made palatable with a small amount of honey.
I asked Tom what I should do with his homemade fire cider, and he suggested mixing a tablespoon with twice as much water and swishing it around in my mouth before swallowing it – the usual way to take an herbal tincture. Or, use it as a salad dressing, he said, which is actually an excellent idea. Fire cider that has been ageing in the fridge for several weeks is exceptionally tasty when tossed with fresh salad greens or added to tomato juice.
Fire Cider Recipes
As you might expect with a folk medicine, there are many different fire cider recipes. In addition to the basic ingredients listed below, you can add other herbs and berries with known health-promoting properties, for example rosemary or currants. When making fire cider, you basically combine horseradish with herbs and spices known for their antioxidants, vitamins or other nutraceuticals such as the allicin in garlic or the zingibain in ginger, and use the mixture as medicine. Ideally, all ingredients should be organic.
Also note that the base liquid in all fire cider recipes is organic apple cider vinegar, which has been found to be of value stabilising blood sugar and cholesterol, plus it’s rich in B vitamins. Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is required to give homemade fire cider its probiotic punch.
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped or thinly sliced
- 1-2 small hot peppers, such as jalapenos, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus a few thin slices
- One-half cup (120ml) ginger root, peeled and chopped
- One-half cup (120ml) horseradish root, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups (0.5 l) raw apple cider vinegar
- One-half cup (120ml) honey
Place all ingredients except the honey in a clean glass jar and shake vigorously. Allow to steep for at least three weeks in a cool, dark place, or in the refrigerator. Shake the jar daily, or as often as you remember. After a month, strain the mixture to remove the solid pieces if desired, or you can leave them in. After a few weeks of pickling, the vegetable bits are quite tasty. Mix in the honey, and store your homemade fire cider in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Does Fire Cider Work?
Now for the big question: Does fire cider work? Every time I felt something coming on last winter, from slight sniffles to a sore throat, I took two or three doses of Tom’s fire cider, a few hours apart. I never got sick. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe I’m really good at manifesting a placebo effect, which is certainly possible. When you make homemade fire cider, you form a strong intention to stay well by undertaking the project, which gains momentum as the elixir mellows and matures. By the time it’s ready to use, it’s easy to believe in the magic.
But even for non-believers, fire cider must be more than a fabulous base for a salad dressing. Hippocrates used cider vinegar medicinally, ginger has been a respected cold remedy in China for centuries, and horseradish can kill many bacteria on contact. This year I’m making my own homemade fire cider, using garlic and horseradish from my garden. It’s another way the garden provides nourishment, even in winter when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.