Fire cider—the throat-stripping, sinus-clearing, hot-spiced, thoroughly modern cider vinegar concoction that devotees down in daily shots—has its roots in very old traditions. Debates rage about who truly created fire cider, and about whether anybody has a right to trademark the term. The concept is old, but the contemporary version has a widely accepted creator. Herbalist, teacher, and author Rosemary Gladstar developed the spicy vinegar in the 1970s and published a recipe in 1994.
Oxymel has been around for ages. The word comes from the Greek “oxymeli”. Oxy means acid; meli, honey. Certainly honey was used in medicine by Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Islamic healers. For as long as vinegar and honey have been around, people have combined them to soothe sore throats, ease queasy stomachs, try to speed colds on their ways, and serve as a base for herbs and spices to combat maladies. We’re catching up with our elders. These days, raw and local honeys are widely held to be particularly beneficial, as is cider vinegar.
Known to have antibacterial properties, honey is an excellent preservative, but when it comes to extracting flavors and other properties, vinegar has an edge. Combine them, and you get the best of both, plus a tart-sweet balance that’s easier to swallow than either on its own.
Making fire cider can be as simple as hitting the corner market and making use of a big glass jar. Layer the ingredients, and it looks handsome while it’s steeping. Put onion slices at the bottom, to form a flavorful base. Shred, mince, or coarsely cut ginger, and pile it on. Garlic next, then slices of turmeric for flavor, health, and color. If you’re packing in oregano, sage, or rosemary, then put it here, setting green against orange. Top it with chunks of lemons, limes, or oranges–one, some, or all of the above. Buy organic, because you’re going to use all of the fruit. The pith is packed with nutrients.
Pack it down and cover the layers completely with a mixture of honey and cider vinegar. For fire cider vegan, swap maple syrup for honey. Don’t worry about getting the tart-sweet balance just right; you’ll have plenty of room for tinkering once the fire cider has been strained.
Stick the jar in a cabinet for a month, checking periodically to make sure the solids are completely submerged. After four weeks, strain the cider-honey mixture into a non-reactive container, pressing to get all of the flavors and nutrients from the herbs and spices, put it in storage vessels, and set it in the refrigerator.
Regular users advocate taking a single shot of fire cider on a daily basis, increasing the dosage and doses when colds or flus strike. If you’re feeling too grotty to swallow your cider, then pour some into steam and give your sinuses a clear-out. Inhale, and remember what it is to breathe.
From mixing to storing, when you’re making something that acidic, kitchenware matters. For fire cider, choose nonreactive containers. You don’t want metal leaching into your cider or your cold cure killing your culinary gear. Steel is fine, as long as it’s stainless. Pyrex and Glasslock are excellent. If you like jars, then avoid those with metal lids. Kilner jars, with their rubber gaskets, are perfect for canning and cider. Pickling weights are made for keeping ingredients below the water line. For storage or gift-giving, pick up Chef’s Star’s gasket-capped bottles.
Rosemary Gladstar’s original fire cider recipe gives plenty of “to taste” leeway. Its backbone is formed of horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, and cayenne. Gladstar encourages readers to tailor the blend to taste, and to add turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, or whatever else fits your get-well nature. Get the recipe.
Not into spices? Violet oxymel is good for stomach ailments, and it’s delightful served over ice with sparkling water. Be sure your violets are food grade. Blossoms bought from a florist may have been treated with sprays. Those won’t do your health any good. Get the recipe.
If you need a gentle remedy for a sore throat, make this simple hyssop oxymel. With only three ingredients, it could hardly be simpler. Measure, mix, cover, and add a dose of time. Get the recipe.
A combination of fresh and powdered ingredients make Mountain Rose Herbs’ Fire Cider easy to prepare. Scroll down Mountain Rose’s page to find optional ingredients and tips on how to use the leftover fruits and spices. Get the recipe.
A favorite among herbalists, echinacea is an optional ingredient in this quick–only two or three weeks from start to swallow—fire cider. You probably won’t notice echinacea’s bitter note; this cider has enough cayenne to make a hot sauce habitué sweat. Get the recipe.
A long list of choices precedes this flavorful fire cider. Think turmeric’s a trend in the West? Not in fire cider’s spicy world. Here, fire cider gets brightness from rosemary; heat from jalapeños, cayenne, ginger, and horseradish; tear-jerking from white onion; and live cultures from raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Get the recipe.
Lots of information precedes the deceptively simple recipe at the end of this fire cider zine. It has all the basics—honey, cider vinegar, hot pepper, horseradish, ginger, and garlic—plus a host of options and some make-it-easy tips. Get the recipe.
Use honey or maple syrup to sweeten this fire cider. Straining through cheesecloth gets it extra-clear, and gives you a chance to squeeze all of the goodness from the herbs, spices, and fruits. Get the recipe.
Looking for inspiration? Here are two recipes for fire cider, plus suggestions for how to use puréed pulp. Fire cider deviled eggs, anyone? Get the recipes.