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This is a lovely remedy that I tried for the first time last year formulated by renowned herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar. It is an herbal vinegar, or acetum (aceta, pl.), that can be taken specifically a a remedy for symptoms of cold or flu, especially sinus congestion and sluggishness. It can also be taken as a daily preventative measure in food, like salad dressing.

I was nervous to try this, at first, that this would be way too spicy hot for my toleration levels. It is called Fire Cider, afterall! And what good would a remedy be if it were too hot to administer? It does have a bite, and it was too hot for my liking. That was, until, I took it in the form of an oxymel (a syrup made from herbs, honey, and vinegar), which I will get to in a moment.

Rosemary’s recipe, which can be found in many places (Facebook, YouTube, etc) consists of:

  • 1 part horseradish root
  • 1 part garlic cloves
  • 1 part onion
  • 1/2 part ginger root
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Apple cider vinegar

Add your ingredients to a quart mason jar, shake daily, and the vinegar should be done in four weeks, or less (depending on personal tastes). For more detailed information, and additional herbal tidbits, Rosemary made a YouTube video of how she makes her fire cider.

As you can see in the video, Rosemary pretty much fills up the jar with roughly the proportions indicated above. There isn’t a lot of fuss and muss over measuring, and the herbal vinegar turns out perfectly fine. I enjoy this simplicity… a pinch of this, a dash of that, and it all coalesces into an effective acetum.

For those times when you feel like being quite precise, there is another way to make medicinal vinegars. You would use a ratio of 1:7, with 1 part herbs (by weight) to 7 parts vinegar (by volume). In a quart jar, you have 32 ounces. Using the ratio of 1:7, for a quart jar you would divide 32 ounces by 8 (1:7 means there are 8 parts total), which gives you 4 ounces. so there should be 4 ounces of herbs to 28 ounces of vinegar. My personal opinion, however, is that this ratio makes a decent salad dressing, but weak as an herbal remedy.

My version of Fire Cider is slightly different. I use red pepper flakes instead of cayenne powder, I slice my garlic first, and I prefer an equal portion of ginger in the formula. So, I use approximately equal parts of horseradish, garlic, and ginger, and stick to 1/4 tsp for the red pepper.

Always make sure to use a clean, sterile jar and lid. If you are using a mason jar with a typical canning lid, make sure there is enough head room so the vinegar does not come in contact with the lid. I use Tattler lids, which are BPA-free and reusable. You can also use plastic, scew on caps safely with vinegar. Store the finished product in the refrigerator.

A fresh batch of Fire Cider.
A fresh batch of Fire Cider, a remedy for cold and flu symptoms.

As I already mentioned, I take an additional step and make it into an oxymel. To make an oxymel from Fire Cider, I make the Fire Cider like Rosemary Gladstar did, filling the jar with equal proportions of the first 3 ingredients ingredients, the 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes, and fill the jar with vinegar. I let the vinegar solvent break down the ingredients for four weeks. When the time is up, I strain it, and then I split the vinegar into two jars and fill them both back up with raw honey.

There is a faster way to make an oxymel which uses heat. You would gently simmer the vinegar on the stovetop for 20 minutes, strain, add honey while still warm, and you’re done. This works well if you suddenly get a request for Fire Cider now, and cannot wait a month to let it steep on the counter. However, I don’t like heating my vinegar, since I use the raw apple cider vinegar, and what’s the point of using raw apple cider vinegar if you’re going to cook it? But, in a pinch, and simmered very gently, this is a good option.

Making a Medicinal Vinegar- Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider
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