Now that we are heading into cold and flu season, I thought it would be appropriate to repost this article that I wrote 2 years ago for Mother Earth News about the roots, recipe, and controversy surrounding Fire Cider, a preventative and nutritious tonic. Two years later, this controversy still swirls as the grass roots group, Free Fire Cider, waits for their day in court to try to “protect the generic herbal term fire cider from trademarks”. Unbelievable as it may seem, in the meantime, an ANCIENT, traditional, generic herbal term, Four Thieves, has been trademarked by Young Living Essential Oils. I’ll be writing an article regarding that debacle soon.
For many generations, herbal medicinal recipes have been prepared by herbalists and families as a way to fight the common cold and other illnesses. As with all early herbal traditions, recipes were passed down from one generation to the next; from healer to community, from parent or grandparent to child. This mentoring was done in the garden and in the kitchen, personally and hands-on.
The exact recipes varied depending on which roots, herbs, and garden varieties were available; also depending on individual needs, tastes and preferences. These effective creations of “food as medicine” continue today.
Fire Cider’s Roots
Since the early 1980s, Rosemary Gladstar, an herbalist who many consider to be the godmother of American herbalism, has been teaching one such recipe to her many students and has been sharing it freely throughout the herbal community and beyond. From its inception, she called it Fire Cider and describes it as a “spicy, hot, deliciously sweet, vinegar tonic.”
This creation was copyrighted in her herbal course materials and featured in several of the books she authored. Since then, it has been shared, enjoyed, modified, and even sold by an untold number of herbalists and health enthusiasts. With Rosemary Gladstar’s blessing, I am sharing this recipe with you today. Truth be known, I did ask for permission but it was unnecessary because Rosemary generously considers Fire Cider to be everyone’s recipe — part of our herbal legacy.
Name Under Fire
But alas, there is more to this story. In recent years, a company named Shire City Herbals trademarked the name and is attempting to stop all other businesses from using it. Many of these small herbal companies have been creating and selling their version of Fire Cider for many more years than Shire City Herbals has been in existence, potentially for more years than the founders of Shire City have been alive!
Litigation has been ongoing but the case will hopefully end soon with the freeing of Fire Cider. If you would like to learn more or get involved, please go to Free Fire Cider.
Why does this matter? If the judge upholds the Fire Cider trademark, it would set a dangerous precedent in which other traditional herbals — i.e. “elderberry syrup” could become owned instead of freely shared and enjoyed as it was meant to be. This is a stand for “traditions, not trademarks.”
A reasonable solution would be to have Shire City rename their product “Shire City Fire Cider” and drop the trademark so others can also continue to use Fire Cider in their name. Since Shire City clearly did not create the name or invent the product, this seems like a fair request.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Original Fire Cider Recipe
• 1/2 cup grated horseradish root
• 1/2 cup or more chopped onions
• 1/4 cup or more chopped garlic
• 1/4 cup or more grated ginger
• Chopped fresh or dried cayenne pepper “to taste”. Can be whole or powdered. “To taste” means should be hot, but not so hot that you can’t tolerate it. Better to make it a little milder than too hot; you can always add more pepper later if necessary.
• Raw honey
• Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
• Optional ingredients: turmeric, echinacea, cinnamon, etc.
1. Place herbs in a half-gallon canning jar and cover with enough raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to cover the herbs by at least three to four inches. Cover tightly with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Place jar in a warm location and let it infuse for three to four weeks. It is best to shake every day to help with the maceration process.
3. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs and reserve the liquid. The strained herbs can be used to make chutney (see recipe below).
4. Add honey “to taste.” Your Fire Cider should taste hot, spicy, and sweet. “A little bit of honey helps the medicine go down……”
5. Rebottle and enjoy! Fire Cider will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool pantry. But it’s better to store in the refrigerator if you have room.
How to Take: A small shot glass daily serves as an excellent preventative tonic. Or take several teaspoons throughout the day if you feel a cold coming on.
Cover the mouth of the jar with parchment paper or waxed paper before screwing on the lid. This keeps the acidic vinegar from eroding the metal.
Rosemary suggests heating the honey to make it easier to blend into the tonic. Please use caution here and only warm the honey up slightly to preserve the medicinal properties.
Strain the herbs from the liquid tonic using a cheesecloth-lined colander.
Fire Cider makes a lovely gift, infused with your wishes for good health. Cheers!
Feel free to play with this recipe and develop your own favorite version as so many people have done. The batch that I currently have infusing contains all of the original ingredients plus burdock root, cinnamon, oregano, sage, rosemary and lemon. Just be sure to always cover the roots and herbs with plenty of undiluted, 5% strength, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar.
Fire Cider Chutney Recipe
Strain the herbs from Fire Cider after 3 to 4 weeks. The herbs should still be somewhat firm and flavorful.
Add the herbs to a food processor or blender and grind coarsely (don’t blend into a smooth paste, but only until coarse and crunchy). If too dry, add a little of the Fire Cider Vinegar to the mix. You might wish to add a little more honey and cayenne to taste.
Your finished Fire Cider Chutney should be sweet but not too sweet, hot but not too hot, and just right for your pleasure taste!
This delicious chutney is great on toast, mixed with rice, veggie dishes, is a favorable addition to soups, or can be enjoyed right from the spoon. It’s the perfect winter condiment!