Make Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic for Health
Fire cider is a traditional folk drink made with herbs stewed in apple cider vinegar. It’s a potent tonic that’s been used for generations as a remedy to ward off sickness and boost health. Learn how to make fire cider at home!
What Is Fire Cider?
Fire cider. The very name sounds like something you might want to try. Or run from.
Essentially, this traditional tonic calls for grated fresh horseradish, ginger, garlic, onions, and hot peppers in apple cider vinegar for 3 to 4 weeks, then finishing with honey to balance the acidity. I like to add additional flavor-rich herbs and fruits.
Renowned as a folk remedy for generations, fire cider has many health benefits. It’s used to help ward off winter colds, flus, and other infirmities. Many folks mix it into salad dressings or festive grog.
Indigenous healers have been brewing herbal vinegars for millennia. In fact, humans began making vinegar as long as 10,000 years ago, using it in food and drinks, for food preservation, and for many medicinal and antiseptic purposes.
Back to the modern incarnation called fire cider. The traditional cold-weather tonic made with healthful herbs stewed in apple cider vinegar is remarkably easy to make.
Photo by Phongnguyen1410/Wikimedia Commons.
How to Make Fire Cider
The idea behind this tonic: prepare a strong vinegar tincture that extracts healthful phytocompounds from a variety of medicinal plant materials.
Of the (probably) hundreds of favorite recipes, most begin with unfiltered apple cider vinegar and some combination of grated horseradish, ginger, and turmeric root; minced garlic, chopped onion, and hot peppers. Other recipes, including mine, include dried or fresh leafy herbs, a few whole spices, and dried fruits or sliced citrus fruits.
Most of these ingredients contain phytochemicals known for their strong digestive, antiviral, antiseptic, and/or decongestant properties.
Admittedly, a drink made with fresh horseradish, garlic, ginger, and chile pepper sounds a little off-putting. I think it tastes great. Start with a daily shot to get blood flowing on a cold day. Or you can’t handle the bite, sweeten with extra honey. It’s worth it—a potent punch that is immune-boosting, antibacterial, and antiviral.
Try it out! Here’s the recipe …
Fire Cider Recipe
- Start with a quart (4 cups) of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
- About 1/3 cup grated horseradish and ginger roots
- 1/4 cup peeled and diced turmeric (or 2 tablespoons dried, powdered turmeric)
- Half a dozen cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 cup peeled and diced onion
- 1 or 2 habanero chiles, split in half (or, use cayenne pepper)
- One large lemon, sliced rind and all (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 tablespoons chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional)
- A cinnamon stick, a few allspice berries, and a few whole cloves (optional)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup raw honey, or more to taste
The degree of “fire” in the blend depends on how many hot peppers you add!
As a precaution, I use only organically grown roots, herbs, and fruits to keep agricultural chemicals, waxes, or dyes from migrating into the vinegar.
- Place all of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices in a clean one-quart jar. Fill the jar with apple cider vinegar
- The apple cider vinegar should cover the herbs by an inch or two. Seal your cap tightly. If you cap your jar with a lid containing metal parts, screw the lid on over a piece of cooking parchment or a small plastic bag to keep the lid from corroding. Shake well.
- Let sit for a few weeks to soak. Shake daily (or when you remember).
- Then strain off the plant materials from the vinegar. Sweeten with honey to taste. Honey not only adds sweetness, but also blends all the flavors in fire cider nicely.
- Refrigerate and use within a year.
Yes, to the uninitiated, the mixture sounds as if the final product will taste awful, but you’ll be surprised at how the ingredients mellow as their flavors blend in the vinegar!
How to Use Fire Cider Tonic
- Some herbalists recommend taking a tablespoonful of cider tonic every day as a preventative during cold and flu season, swallowing it right off the spoon, or adding it to a cup of juice or hot tea, perhaps with a bit of honey. You could also mix with lemonade or orange juice.
- Others use it as a gargle at the first sign of a scratchy throat.
- Mixed half and half with honey, it makes a good cough remedy. (Don’t feed honey to children less than a year old.)
- Use it as you would plain vinegar in dressings for salads, in marinades for meat or tofu, and vinegar-based sauces.
- Drizzle on steamed vegetables or sautéed greens
- Add to soups and chilis
- Try a couple of dashes in a cocktail, such as a Bloody Mary
Final note: As with any herbal remedy, please consult with your healthcare professional before using purchased or homemade cider-vinegar tonic on a regular basis. Vinegar, and perhaps some of the herbal constituents, may interact with prescription medications or have negative effects on some health conditions.
See if your body feels better, clearer, and healthier with this apple cider vinegar tonic!
Introduction to Preserving
Making Quick Pickles
Making Quick Jams: Refrigerator or Freezer Jam
How to Can Pickles
How to Can Jam and Jelly
Salting and Brining