There’s something wickedly beautiful and immensely healthy brewing in the kitchen: Fire Cider! Herbalists and those who embrace natural medicine call upon this spicy, spunky, tangy tonic to stay healthy during the winter and cold season. With the all-star combination of foods and herbs used in this fire cider recipe, it is recognized to either prevent or notably shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. This article will show you the easy step-by-step process how to make your own fire cider at home.
I think it’s safe to say we could all use a little extra help in staying healthy these days. If you have kiddos (ahem, germ factories) you are probably… okay, most definitely… in need of extra support! But unless they are super adventurous, kids probably won’t enjoy fire cider straight like we do. Instead, you could dilute it in some water or juice for them! Another great kid-friendly, immunity-boosting, cold-fighting natural remedy you can make at home is elderberry syrup. Check out our elderberry syrup recipe here.
If you’re a bit of a plant nerd like me, and want to hear how and why fire cider is so good for you, keep reading along… Or jump straight to the recipe here.
Why is fire cider good for you?
Fire cider is made by infusing numerous healing plant ingredients in raw apple cider vinegar, also referred to as “ACV”. Each ingredient in this fire cider recipe offers it’s own unique and potent natural health benefits to fight cold and flu bugs, as explained below. Combined, they create a very powerful immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, decongestant, circulation and digestion system boosting beverage. Can I get a heck yes for healing plants?
Key fire cider ingredients, and why they’re important:
Rosemary Gladstar, the Queen-of-All-Herbs, uses just seven key ingredients in her Fire Cider recipe – garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, honey, and ACV – which featured in her book “Medicinal Herb’s, a Beginner’s Guide”. These seven things are essential in this healing tonic, however, you can get creative and add all kinds of optional beneficial and tasty additions as well! We’ll talk about those in the next section. As I always suggest for ferments and infusions, try to use all organic ingredients to make fire cider. Raw is also best.
- GARLIC. A very medicinal herb, known to support the immune system. Garlic stimulates the production of white blood cells in your body, who fight against invaders like harmful bacteria and viruses. The sulfur compounds in garlic also increases blood flow and circulation. Raw garlic is especially beneficial as it contains the highest levels of allicin, an immune-stimulating compound.
- ONION. Similar to garlic, onion contains allicin to supports the immune system and circulation. Onion is also high in quercetin, a plant pigment often used for allergy symptom relief as it can reduce histamine response and inflammation. A University of Michigan study described quercetin as a “promising treatment for the common cold”, exploring its antioxidant and therapeutic properties, such as the ability to reduce viral replication and lung inflammation.
- HORSERADISH*. This pungent root vegetable, part of the mustard/brassica family, uses its heat to increase blood flow, body temperature, and digestion to flush out cold and flu bugs via increased sweat and urination. It also has antibacterial properties to fight sinus infections, and can help stimulate your lungs to assist with coughing and keeping your chest loose and “productive”.
- GINGER. Rosemary Gladstar describes ginger as “wonderfully warming and decongesting”. Enzymes present in ginger reduce inflammation, is used to ease nausea and stomach aches, activates your immune system, and soothes sore throats. Fresh is best!
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR (raw, with the mother). Apple cider vinegar is full of probiotics that support gut health, which is directly correlated with whole-body wellness. Its active ingredient, acetic acid, a known antioxidant. It can help reduce blood sugar spikes and blood pressure, has anti-carcinogenic properties, and boosts the immune systems in those who regularly consume it. Learn how to make your own apple cider vinegar here.
- CAYENNE PEPPERS or other hot peppers. Capsaicin is a compound in chili peppers that makes them hot and spicy. Yet capsaicin also stirs up your circulation system, warms your body, and serves as a decongestant, expectorant, and pain reliever all at once. Chili peppers are also high in vitamin C and A – good friends to have around when you’re sick.
- RAW HONEY. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! Honey is added after the infusion and separation process described below. It does help bring balance to make this spicy fire cider recipe more palatable, but that’s not all! Honey coats and soothes sore throats. Consuming local raw honey (highly suggested) may also reduce allergies by exposing you to local pollens. It is like a natural immunization – stimulating then reducing your reactive responses.
*Please note: It is recommended to avoid the consumption of horseradish if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It could be omitted from this recipe as needed.
Optional fire cider ingredients
Many herbalists stick with just the 7 core ingredients listed above, but other folks get creative and include all sorts of optional good-for-you plants to make an even more potent brew. For instance, rose hips, cinnamon sticks, and pomegranate kernels are beautiful additions. I have even heard of people adding sprigs of cedar and pine for a super earthy, woodsy vibe. Feel free to get creative with what you have available to you locally and seasonally. You may be tempted to add elderberries to fire cider, but remember, all elderberries (fresh and dried) are toxic raw and must be cooked before consuming.
We included the following optional additions in our fire cider recipe:
- Citrus, for an extra boost of vitamin C!
- Fresh turmeric, for extra antioxidants and inflammation-fighting. If you can’t get fresh rhizomes, you can substitute with turmeric powder, though in my experience it doesn’t mix as well and can make for a more chalky end-product.
- A couple sprigs of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, or homegrown lemongrass.
- Fresh hot chilis, to keep your blood moving and sinuses open!
- Black pepper. This is especially important when using turmeric, as it vastly increases the activity and bio-availability of turmeric’s healing active ingredient – curcumin.
- Dried homegrown calendula flowers, for an extra kick of anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing action. Read more about how to grow, harvest, dry, and use calendula here.
Note that most all fire cider recipes online are per quart jar, so this is what I am sharing below. However, we scaled up (times four) to fill two half-gallon jars as shown. We figure that given the effort to make it, how long it needs to steep, and how quickly we can go through it, it makes most sense (for us) to make a large batch of fire cider at once.
Per Quart Jar:
- 1 medium onion, diced (we prefer sweet yellow or white)
- 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 3 to 4 tbsp fresh grated horseradish
- 3 to 4 tbsp fresh grated ginger root
- Raw unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar – Enough to fill the jar & submerge the other ingredients. We needed just under a full 32 oz bottle per half-gallon jar
- Raw honey, local if possible – added later, see the instructions below. For strict vegans who avoid honey, you can either brave it and go sans-sweetener, or use a natural plant-based replacement like maple or agave syrup.
- Cayenne pepper, also added later
- 3 to 4 tablespoons fresh grated turmeric rhizome (substitute equivalent in teaspoons if using dried turmeric powder)
- 1 lemon and/or orange, per quart. In this batch, we used 2 lemons, 1 orange, and 1/2 a grapefruit per half gallon. You can juice and zest them, or just slice and throw in whole. We did the latter, but removed the grapefruit rind to save space in the jar. Grapefruit rinds can also be extra bitter, so keep that in mind.
- Fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano or lemongrass, to taste preference – a few sprigs per jar is good!
- Hot chilis – at least one per jar, scaling up for larger batches or for a heat-loving taste preference.
- Black pepper. A pinch of peppercorns or few dashes of ground pepper to each jar.
Step 1: Chop All Ingredients
Chop, grate, or otherwise prep the ingredients as described above. The smaller the pieces, the better it will all infuse! A food processor can help make this job really quick and easy. Consider opening a window while working with fresh horseradish! It’s pungency can sting you eyes and throat. I also recommend to use caution and wear gloves when working with fresh hot chili peppers.
Step 2: Fill the Jar
Add all the goodies into you choice size of mason jar, or flip-top glass container, which should be about two-thirds to three-quarters full of the prepared ingredients when done. We love Ball half-gallon jars, which we use just about constantly for infusions, ferments, and other homestead kitchen adventures! Keep in mind the more full your jar is, the less room you have for liquid (and thus less end product).
Step 3: Add ACV
Slowly pour the apple cider vinegar over everything, lightly knocking out air bubbles as needed, until the container is full.
Step 4: Cover
Cover the jars of fire cider with either BPA-free plastic mason jar lids, high-quality food grade stainless steel lids that will not rust. If using a standard mason jar lid, add a piece of waxed parchment paper on top before putting the lid on. This is so the acidic nature of the vinegar won’t corrode the metal lid.
Step 5: Infuse and Shake
Store the raw fire cider infusion at room temperature, somewhere that you will see it and remember to shake it daily (or more, if you think of it!). I have read varying instructions on whether to store the steeping fire cider in a dark place or not, but Ms. Gladstar says even a warm sunny kitchen window will work, so I don’t think it matters which.
Try to gently shake the jars of fire cider well every day, for the first several days. This will help to not only increase the steeping action, causing the beneficial properties of each ingredient to infuse into the ACV even more, but also to help prevent any growth of mold by keeping the contents submerged and moving. Allowing the same ingredients float on top (exposed to air) for many days increases the chance of mold.
Step 6: Strain
After a minimum of 3-4 weeks (some herbalists steep their fire cider for many months!), it is time to separate and strain the liquid. We use a fine mesh stainless steel strainer (or a typical strainer lined with cheesecloth would work too) poised over a large empty vessel below.
If you’re making a quart batch of fire cider, you can likely dump all of its contents into the strainer at once. Since we make very large batches, we need to add little-by-little to the strainer since not all of the solid bits will fit at once. To help drain and extract all the healing liquids from them as possible, I hand-squeezed and pressed the solids in each batch as I went, as shown below.
Step 7: Honey
Honey is traditionally added to fire cider “to taste”. Using local honey also provides added allergy immunity and desensitization properties. If you are a strict vegan and do not want to use honey, you could substitute with a natural sweetener like agave syrup, or just be a badass and consume your fire cider sans sweetener!
For our taste buds, we add about ½ cup of honey per 2 half-gallon jars, meaning ¼ cup per half gallon batch, or just a couple tablespoons if you made a quart jar batch. When I say “per half-gallon batch” or “per quart jar”, I mean the total amount of liquid and solids you started with in your container, not the final strained liquid amount.
To help the honey mix, soak the jar in a hot water bath for a while to melt a bit, and then use a whisk to rapidly stir. Overheating honey can destroy some of its healing properties!
Step 8: Add Cayenne
Add and thoroughly mix cayenne pepper powder or chili powder, again “to taste”. If your original concoction included hot chili peppers, your fire cider may already be spicy enough for your liking! Ms. Gladstar doesn’t add peppers to her initial fire cider infusion, and instead only adds cayenne powder at the end.
After we mixed in our honey and gave it a taste, it was still fairly mild, despite using a few raw peppers initially. A few pinches of our homegrown chili powder solved that! Not that I love HOT spicy, but warm spicy is good. We didn’t have any true cayenne on hand.
Step 9: Bottle
Using a funnel, bottle your finished fire cider! You could save and reuse the bottles from the original apple cider vinegar, or put it in some swing-top bottles like ours. Store finished bottles in a refrigerator or other cool dark place, like a root cellar, if you’re so lucky to have one.
Fire cider should “stay good” and last well up to a year or longer, if you don’t drink it all by then that is! As long as it is doesn’t develop mold or a sudden change in flavor or odor, it’s still good. Now your homemade fire cider is ready to enjoy.
How often should I take fire cider?
It is recommended to take 1-2 tablespoons of fire cider per day throughout the fall and winter as a preventative measure. If you are feeling some crud coming on, up your dose to a full 1 oz “shot”! You can repeat a few times a day. You can also use fire cider as a zesty salad dressing! Remember to shake the bottle before pouring to ensure you’re getting all the good stuff that may have settled.
How to use leftover strained fire cider solids
The leftover now-pickled garlic, ginger, onion, and other herb bits need not go to waste! Some folks suggest using them on top of salads or in stir fry. A friend of mine dehydrates and grinds it all into a powder, puts the powder into capsules, and takes them as immunity supplements. Her family didn’t like drinking the fire cider as much as she did, so this was her solution to have them reap some of the benefits also. With ours, I picked through to remove and discard the citrus peels, and kept the rest in a bowl in the fridge. We added a couple spoonfuls to meals like sautéed veggies and black beans, and it was great!
Thanks for reading. Cheers, to your health!
Do you make your own fire cider? What other fun and unique ingredients do you add to your brews? Comment below. Please feel free to ask questions, or to share this post!
Fire Cider Recipe for Immune Health
- Large glass, ceramic, or other non-reactive container for infusing
- 1 medium yellow or white onion
- 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 3-4 tbsp fresh horseradish, grated
- 3-4 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- raw apple cider vinegar (enough to pour over other ingredients and fill the jar)
- raw honey, added later – after weeks of infusion
- cayenne pepper powder, also added later (if other hot peppers aren't added during infusion)
- Optional: citrus, 3-4 tbsp fresh grated turmeric, black pepper, hot chili peppers (instead of cayenne later), and fresh herbs such as oregano, lemon grass, thyme, rosemary, sage, or calendula blooms
- Chop or use a food processor to prepare the above-listed onion, garlic, horseradish and ginger – per quart jar. Scale up as needed for larger batches.
- Slice the optional citrus into slices or quarters, e.g. one lemon and/or orange per quart jar.
- Pack your container of choice with the prepared ingredients until it is about ¾ of the way full.
- Pour the ACV over the prepared ingredients until the container is full.
- Place a lid on the container, and store at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks minimum.
- Shake the jar on a daily basis to help the ingredients steep and infuse.
- After a minimum of 3 to 4 weeks, strain the contents of the jar using cheese cloth and/or fine mesh strainer, separating the solids from the liquid. Retain the liquid! Squeeze solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Add honey* into the reserved liquid to taste – we usually do just a couple tablespoons per infused and drained quart jar, Also add chili or cayenne powder to taste, and thoroughly stir to combine. *As a vegan variation, either skip the sweeter or use agave syrup – though it doesn't have the same healing properties as local raw honey.
- Bottle the liquid and store in your refrigerator or a cool dark place. Fire cider should last up to a year or longer. As long as it is doesn't develop mold or a sudden change in flavor or odor, it's still good.
- It is now ready to drink! Enjoy often to stay healthy during the winter months. It is recommended to take 1-2 tablespoons of fire cider per day throughout the fall and winter as a preventative measure. If you are feeling some crud coming on, up your dose to a full 1 oz “shot”! You can repeat a few times a day. You can also use fire cider as a zesty salad dressing! Remember to shake the bottle before pouring to ensure you’re getting all the good stuff that may have settled.