cold & flu season w/ fire cider

Only takes about 15 minutes to prepare! Ready to pour and cap, then infuse for 4-12 weeks.

I was introduced to Fire Cider (produced by a local place, Shire City Herbals in Pittsfield, MA), a few weeks ago when a friend offered me a few precious shots of his stash after hearing me complain about inflamed lymph nodes in my throat, and the worry of a prolonged oncoming illness.  Made with apple cider vinegar and other natural, immune-boosting ingredients, according to writer Trisha McCaul:Fire Cider is a tonic with antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, which can be taken daily as a preventive and also at the onset of colds or flu; an expectorant (that) breaks up congestion and helps us ward off respiratory ailments and sinusitis; also helps to stimulate sweating and moves toxins out of the body, which is beneficial in cases of colds, flu and mild fevers”.

Nick (my hubs) and I have been barreling through the summer, busy with farmers markets and the first year of our shop being open.  We have been running on fumes for a few weeks now after a very busy Harvest Festival season.  The sudden dip and pendulous swings in temperature here in Upstate NY in Autumn always bring a round of colds and flu to the masses.  This year, the nefarious version includes a nasty chest cough with phlegm that lasts for weeks (Nick and our daughter can’t seem to shake it).  My infection came after theirs, and I knew getting sick would cripple our family flow that is hanging by a thread already.  Even though this concoction contained vinegar, raw horseradish and ginger, and brutally hot peppers, I downed three shots of it before nights end.  Boy did it burn! I could feel the tonic attacking everything in my throat and chest that ailed me. By the next evening, my lymph nodes were no longer swollen and I wasn’t feeling sick at all (although I do think I held on to a little bit of the chest cold).


When our friend informed me I could make Fire Cider at home, I knew it was something we needed to have on hand every winter to fight off colds and flu. You can warm it up and drink straight if you’re about to get sick, or use it in all kinds of inventive ways as a daily immune booster during winter months.  Even your kids can benefit from a drop combined with extra honey and/or Chamomile Tea, or by soaking a cloth and placing it on the chest. But beware, it’s not for the faint of heart (or stomach) in full-force.

(Obvious Disclaimer: I’m no doctor so these health claims are anecdotal and based on my own online research and personal experience).

Apple Cider Vinegar, Honey, Horseradish and Ginger Roots, Garlic, Onion, Orange, Habanero Peppers and Ground Tumeric.

Fire Cider, despite its firey ingredients, is also used as a digestive potion, and the recipe I used is widely attributed to Rosemary Gladstar (“a pioneer in the herbal movement and has been called the ‘godmother of American Herbalism’”).  It is based on a New England traditional tonic of Apple Cider Vinegar (“maintains proper pH levels for a healthy alkaline state, which ultimately helps to produce health, reverse illness and gain vitality”) combined with Honey (“contains powerful antioxidants with antiseptic and antibacterial properties”).  Ms. Gladstar added Fresh Horseradish Root (“notably high in vitamin C and has anti-microbial activities”), Garlic (“supports the immune function and opens the pores of the skin to lower a fever”), Onion (“has been used as a food remedy for centuries in cold, cough, bronchitis and influenza”, among other illustrious healing properties), Fresh Ginger Root (“valued for its ability to warm the stomach, to ease vomiting & nausea and to fight off colds, chills and coughs…useful for all types of congestion in the body”), and Hot Peppers (“traditionally used by herbalists to cure stomach aches, cramping, gas, varicose veins, allergies, and constipation…even heart attacks”). On the recommendation of my friend, Heather (an herbalist who works in the Wellness Department of the Honest Weight Food Coop), I added citrus and herbs.

Ingredients Peeled/Zested

Fire Cider
(adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s version)

    • 1 part Garlic (I used a whole head, peeled and smashed)
    • 1 part Horseradish (fresh a must, 1 medium cleaned, peeled and sliced root)
    • 1 part Onions (I used ¾ of a large one, peeled and rough-chopped)
    • ½ part Fresh Ginger (one medium, peeled and grated root)
    • Cayenne to taste (again, fresh is a must – I used ¼ of a seeded Habanero)
    • Honey to taste (about ¼ cup)
    • Apple Cider Vinegar (about 1 qt.)
    • 1 large Orange (zested and juiced)
    • Rosemary, Thyme or any herbs you have on hand and prefer

Tools you will need.

METHOD: Prepare your roots and vegetables and place them in a glass jar, preferably with a plastic lid (if you’re using a mason jar, cover it with wax paper before sealing to prevent oxidation). Leave 2 inches of room and fill almost to the top with vinegar. Seal and allow the concoction to cure for 4-12 weeks in that dark, mysterious corner of your pantry, or if you live in more temperate climates (or you’re trying this recipe earlier in the year), burying your Fire Cider is said to cure it more effectively. After your Fire Cider has festered to your liking, strain the liquid into a clean container and mix in the honey. Refrigerate; sealed tight, it should last 6-8 weeks due to the high acid content.

Ingredients chopped/grated/juiced/smashed.

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: The garlic, onions, ginger, peppers, honey and herbs all came from local farms and neighbors.  The only difficulty I had in immediate sourcing of ingredients was finding fresh Horseradish Root. I bought jarred horseradish (hoping I wouldn’t have to use it) and put out feelers on Facebook Wednesday (hoping someone I knew could get their hands on fresh).  Sarah Gordon from FarmieMarket noticed my plea, contacted her farmers and on Thursday, delivered at least 10, just-dug-up, beautifully dirty roots from two local farms (thank you Lady Liberty and Mountain Winds Farms)!

I only used a small portion, so if you’re inclined to make this remedy and you live locally, please comment below so we can arrange for you to take some off my hands!

The almost finished product, ready for curing in a cool, dry, dark place for about 8 weeks.

I can’t wait to find out in a few weeks how my Fire Cider turns out compared to the tasty stuff from the talented folks, Shire City Herbals, bottling it for retail over in Mass!  I’ll keep you posted.


Disclaimer: We are not doctors so these health claims are anecdotal and based on Britin’s own online research and personal experience. Please consult your doctor, whether Eastern or Western, with any health concern. Thanks a bunch! -Christina

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Categories: Edible Gifts, From Scratch Holidays, home remedy, Homesteading, recipe, Winter

Author:Britin F.

I am 1/2 owner/partner/baker with my husband as All Good Bakers, mother, singer, guitarist, photographer, writer, community and food activist.

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44 Comments on “cold & flu season w/ fire cider”

  1. Ona
    November 8, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    This sounds like it’s exactly what we need at my home. Nasal colds leading to chest colds have been routine in the past – I’m looking forward to making this right away!

    I am local, so if you do have some horseradish that I can purchase from you, I’d be very thankful.

  2. November 8, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I do Ona! We’re at our shop (All Good Bakers, 160 A Quail St.) all day on Thursdays doing prep work for the weekend (around 11-6) and all day Fri & Sat, Sun till 3. It didn’t cost much so I’m happy to gift you with some so you can make your own Fire Cider! Please feel free to stop by, we’ll keep it refrigerated till then.

  3. jess
    November 8, 2011 at 10:33 am #

    This sounds awesome! I am getting over some nastiness and would love to make it as a preventitive for later this winter. If you have any horseradish left over i’d love to buy some from you.

    • November 8, 2011 at 10:44 am #

      I have a ton of it Jess! Please see my note to Ona above about pickup :) And no money need be exchanged…I’m happy to share the bounty! Don’t want to see all that lovely horseradish root go to waste….

    • Ona
      November 8, 2011 at 10:52 am #

      Fantastic! I’ll see you Thursday.

  4. November 8, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Oops, I just remembered that you’re supposed to shake the container once a day to ensure everything gets mixed up properly!!

    • Dan
      January 3, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Thanks for the recipe, Britin! I’m on my second batch and my recipe is similar to yours. The only major difference is that I use habaneros in the place of cayenne peppers. I like the habs fruity flavor (and intense heat). Don’t get me wrong – I love cayenne pepper. Just an experimental alternative if you are so inclined. Peace!

      • Dan
        January 3, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

        That said, those peppers in your photos look like Red Savinas (a variety of habanero). Can you enlighten me?

  5. November 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    If you still have more available would also love to pick some up on Thursday! Thank you!

    • November 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

      I’ve got plenty to go around! Please stop by!

  6. November 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    I would love to try this. So tired of antibiotics and flu shots. Live in Dallas area. Any way to purchase and have it sent?? Thanks:)

  7. Meg
    November 10, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Britin, great post! I’d love to try this! If you still have some, I’d also be willing to take the HR off your hands and make this. I have been drinking a small bit of ACR in water each day for other issues, and man, that stuff alone is pretty magical in it’s healing properties! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • November 11, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      I still have a bit in the fridge if you’d like some Meg!

  8. Krys
    November 13, 2011 at 6:49 am #

    Hi Britin,

    I would love to pick some of this up from you is there still some available? I am in Saratoga but this sounds like it might be worth the hike ;) – I am all about natural alternatives to boosting the body’s healing capabilities.


  9. November 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    This sounds like a lovely thing to have on hand. My husband is a big fan og ginger&ginger for kicking a cold. Ginger ale plus ginger brandy. I normally drink any highly spiced tea like Chai, double chai, etc.

    Now to go about finding horseradish…..I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it raw and I don’t normally eat it.

  10. November 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I’m out of fresh horseradish, but could probably acquire more if a few of you still want it!

  11. Ona
    December 18, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your horseradish Britin. My Fire Cider is still not ready, but almost there!

    It has inspired me to possibly plant some horseradish root in my own garden.

  12. Ona
    February 14, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    FYI: Wanted to let everyone know that I followed the recipe and made this fire cider. I’ve used it all winter and while taking it never did get a nasal cold. To put it in perspective, each year since I’ve moved to Albany (9 years ago), I have had at least one nasal cold leading to bronchitis. Not this year, not with my fire cider.

    Yay for Fire Cider! Also Yay for Britin for sharing this fabulous recipe!

  13. Valeria
    August 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    So I made a batch of this stuff a couple years ago, put it in the back of a cabinet to ripen and immediately forgot about it. Until now. Do I need to ditch and re-do or is it still potent stuff?

  14. Renee
    October 6, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    You can find organic horseradish roots in Whole foods market

    • October 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

      Hey Renee, We do not have a Whole Foods in the Upstate NY area (yet) so we can not speak for the availalbility of organic horseradish. My best suggestion is to call your local WF and see if they carry it.

  15. jody
    October 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

    I would love to try to make this Fire Cider if you have any horse radish left. I have recently started with Apple Cider vinegar in water daily. All about natural.

  16. October 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Just be careful with the fresh horseradish if you’re pregnant and trying to stay pregnant.

  17. Rafael
    November 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    whoops. I added the honey when I put the whole thing together… Will it still be ok to drink?

    • December 11, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      It should be fine Rafael, the honey may stick to the ingredients….you might just have to see how it comes out in the end! Good luck!

      • Oma
        December 11, 2012 at 9:18 am #

        I put the honey in with everything else the first time I made this last fall. I ended up liking it better that way. I used it all winter and throughout the spring.

  18. Emma
    December 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Any idea where I could acquire a horseradish root at this time of year? (I’m in Albany.)

    • December 11, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      I’ve got some at our shop Emma! A ton, in fact, from a friend’s yard. haven’t looked at it in a week, but it’s in cold storage so should be okay. Feel free to drop by 540 Delaware Ave. in Albany Wed-Sun before 3pm, we’re happy to give you some!

    • Dan
      January 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      You can usually find it at Price Chopper or Hannaford. I’ve had better luck at Price Chopper.

  19. Nancy T.
    January 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    Could I prepare (liquefy) this in my Vitamix and then ferment it? (and then strain at the end too… I’m thinking there would be more of the cider in the end. I’ve also heard of people using the strained solids to make marinade and salad dressing :)

  20. Meagan
    January 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    I would certainly pay for this if you are willing to ship a bottle or two.
    Let me know!

  21. Shasta
    December 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    I have made a tonic similar to this, but not always with the same ingredients. The next time I make some, I am going to add some Indian Gooseberry, for the vitamin C.

    • Cathy Gouch
      February 27, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      Excellent idea! I use the basic herbs and build from there.

      • July 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

        I made my first batch and its brewing away. I had a huge jar and so it wasn’t filled to the top of the jar, is that an issue?


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