Ryan brought a jar of homemade Fire Cider to the store the other day, that he’d made with the last harvest of his Cheyenne Cayenne Peppers. Brilliant orange-red spicy liquid on a cold gray day, it made us wish that we had made a batch of our own last month, so that we could be drinking our own, now. Luckily, he was generous enough to share his. We set to making our own, the very next day.
Ideally, we might have made this elixir months ago, when the peppers were still in their full glory. The Cheyenne Cayenne variety, particularly, did so well this year, and it has such a vibrant red color, that it seems perfect for this use. Now, though, all of those peppers have been set to fermenting, or are hanging to dry in a cool dark place. Although many fire cider recipes call for either fresh or dried ground pepper, we wanted to use whole peppers that came from somewhere dear to us; Amanda gifted some of her home-grown Cheyennes to the cause.
Fire cider is an idea more than a recipe; it can be customized to suit individual tastes, preferences, and seasons. But to get an idea of what would be needed, we went looking for recipes. We found more than we bargained for!
Search online for a Fire Cider recipe, and half the hits will refer instead to the Fire Cider Controversy. It seems that the name Fire Cider has been trademarked, perhaps with the best of intentions, but much to the ire of the herbal medicine community, who regard both the name and the practice of making Fire Cider as part of a communal herbal legacy that stretches back for generations. While it is beyond the scope of this article to outline the rash of suits and counter suits in this ongoing legal battle, it is worth noting that Fire Cider has long been made by and for the people; only recently has it become available for sale in a premade form. And to be clear, this personal use is still entirely protected from a legal standpoint; it is only if an individual begins to sell a product labeled as Fire Cider that the legal wrangling begins.
So what is Fire Cider, exactly? It is a powerful example of food as medicine, a concept that is gaining traction in the thoughts not only of crunchy granola-eaters, but in the halls of medicine. It is a simple infusion of roots, herbs, and vegetables in vinegar, that is used as an immune stimulant, expectorant, and general health tonic. The exact medicinal properties vary depending on the particular combination of herbs and other ingredients used; by its very nature, Fire Cider is meant to be tailored to the tastes and requirements of those who make it for their own benefit. It is intended to be taken in small doses, as a single shot as a daily tonic, or several times a day when fighting colds or flu. Being composed largely of vinegar and herbs, it is also a useful ingredient in salad dressings, soups and savory baked dishes; use it without cooking to preserve the optimum benefit of the raw apple cider vinegar that it is based on.
Without further ado, then, here is the recipe we made on this late winter day. Feel free to tailor it as you see fit.
Fire Cider will keep unrefrigerated at cool room temperature for several months, or indefinitely in the refrigerator.
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