Fire Cider: an herbal tonic for wellness!

Fire Cider

We’re deep into cold season here in Minnesota. My partner, my friends, and most of my clients seem to be dealing with nasty colds right now! I’ve managed to stay illness-free so far (knock on wood), and Fire Cider has been one of my stand-by immune system support allies the last few weeks. Fire Cider is a keep-on-hand pantry classic for good health. As a general health tonic, taking a shot of Fire Cider is an awesome way start your morning or as a pick me up when you're feeling low. It's also indispensable to help kick out the early stages of a cold!

In the kitchen, Fire Cider makes a great culinary ingredient, for use cocktails, sparkling water, or in salad dressings and marinades. I used some as part of the dressing on a bean salad recently, and it was a hit.

Why buy bottles of packaged Fire Cider at the co-op or Whole Foods when you can make a batch at home yourself (or with friends!) and take an active role in supporting your own health? Get on it and build that healing pantry yourself.

What is Fire Cider?

Fire Cider is a combination of herbs and medicinal foods soaked in vinegar, so named by the great Rosemary Gladstar years and years ago. Every herbalist has their own version of Fire Cider, and the internet is bursting with variations. This bold mix of horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric,  chili peppers, lemons, raw honey, and a few other herbal allies is a naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial dream come true, helping to stimulate the immune system, support the qi (your body's functional energy), increase circulation, promote detoxification, and kick out pathogenic factors with every zesty dose.

The spicy, sour, bitter, acrid, and sweet flavor combination is very moving and stimulating to the body's blood, qi, and fluids, making it a great choice if you're feeling a cold coming on, are "stuck in a rut" or depressed, have tight achy muscles, spend a lot of time sitting at a desk all day, have cold hands and feet, have a slow-moving digestive system, have phlegm stuck in your lungs, or are recovering from a few too many cocktails last night....

As for my version of Fire Cider, I like adding I like adding thyme, rosemary, dried, shredded astragalus root, and shredded fresh burdock root. Thyme is nourishing and moving to the qi, and rosemary stimulates digestion. Both work together to support the qi, loosen and transform phlegm and mucous, and resolve pathogenic factors like colds and flus.

Astragalus (huang qi) is one of my herbal sweethearts, a wonderfully tonifying herb that helps to build the body's blood and qi, support the Lungs, and promote stable energy levels and digestive function. In Chinese herbal medicine, astragalus is also treasured for its ability to boost protective qi and protect your body against pathogenic factors -- that's Chinese medicine talk for your immune system.

Burdock root is a long, slender, wily-looking root, with a rough brown exterior and a cream colored, starchy interior. When exposed to oxygen, shredded and sliced burdock root turns brown very quickly -- as evidenced by the deep brown color in the photo above. Burdock has powerful detoxifying, heat clearing, dampness draining, and external pathogen clearing effects. I like adding sliced burdock root to broths, stocks, and stews, and often throw dried burdock root in liver-supportive herbal tea blends.

How does it taste?

It tastes like it means business -- spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, and awesome. It's called Fire Cider for a reason.

Is there anyone who shouldn't use Fire Cider?

While Fire Cider is considered generally safe, there are some situations where it may not be the right fit for certain individuals. People taking prescription blood thinners (like Coumadin or Warfarin) may want to avoid Fire Cider completely, or use extreme caution -- many these herbs have blood thinning properties, so you will want to work with you physician to make sure your INR levels are stable. Additionally, the immune-stimulating properties of Fire Cider may be problematic for individuals with autoimmune conditions. Caution should also be taken by anyone taking several prescription medications, or individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Finally, if you're a hot tempered or easily irritable person who is warm all the time, sweaty, and gets easily red and shiny in the face, this Fire Cider may just be a little too much, um, fire for you. Try some soothing green tea, lemon balm tea, nettle tea, or mint tea instead.

If you have questions on whether Fire Cider is right for you, speak to your healthcare practitioner.

A jar of beautiful and powerful ingredients, ready to get doused in vinegar!

A jar of beautiful and powerful ingredients, ready to get doused in vinegar!

Fire Cider Recipe

yield: 1 quart


  • 4 cups raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup fresh horseradish root, grated (do not peel)

  • 1 cup fresh burdock root, grated (do not peel)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • ½ cup peeled garlic cloves, chopped

  • ½ cup fresh ginger root, grated (do not peel)

  • ½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated (do not peel), or 1 tablespoon dried powdered turmeric if fresh is unavailable

  • rind and juice of 3 small, organic unwaxed lemons

  • 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

  • ¼ cup dried, shredded or sliced astragalus root (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon dry thyme leaves, or a few sprigs fresh

  • 1 tablespoon dry rosemary leaves, or a few sprigs fresh

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • ¼-½ cup raw honey


Scrub all ingredients well, and prepare as directed above.I used the largest holes on a box grater to grate the horseradish, burdock, ginger, and turmeric roots. If grating by hand isn't your style, you could probably use the grating/shredding blade in a food processor, but I've never done it this way! Take caution while grating horseradish and chopping onions and peppers, to ensure that your eyes and skin are protected. Wear gloves, or make sure to wash hands well after contact with these ingredients!

Layer all ingredients EXCEPT honey into a ½ gallon (aka 2 quart) mason jar. Cover with vinegar. Put a square of wax paper or parchment over the top of the jar, then screw on lid over the wax/parchment paper. Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Check often to make sure ingredients are covered completely by apple cider vinegar, topping off with more vinegar as needed.

After 4-6 weeks, open jar and strain out vinegar into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Squeeze ingredients in cheesecloth to get out remaining vinegar. Stir honey into vinegar, to taste. Transfer into air-tight bottles or jars, and store in a dark, cool place. Done! Shake bottle well before each use. As long as the contents of the jar stay uncontaminated, this stuff lasts for a long time - feel free to keep in the fridge for longer storage.


  • As a general health tonic, take 1/2-1 oz shots daily, or as needed.

  • For acute cold symptoms, 1/2 - 1 oz shots every few hours at the first sign of a cold, until symptoms subside.

  • As a culinary ingredient, use as you would vinegar, adding to dressings, marinades, sauces, or mixing in cocktails or sparkling water.


This recipe is endlessly versatile. Here’s a handful of ways to change up this recipe…

  • if you can’t find an ingredient listed above, that’s okay, you can always make it without

  • use other types of hot peppers

  • add a few green onions

  • swap out lemons for limes, oranges, or tangerines

  • add additional herbs with medicinal properties, like oregano, sage, schisandra berries, licorice, or dried medicinal mushrooms like shiitake or reishi

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Recipe: Who needs potatoes when you have Parsnip Apple Mash?

Recipe: Who needs potatoes when you have Parsnip Apple Mash?


I haven't eaten potatoes in almost 4 years. Although I undeniably enjoy the starchy goodness of a potato and the multiplicity of ways to enjoy them, consuming them just isn't worth the allergy-induced joint swelling and digestive discomfort that inevitably results. 

Instead of mourning over the loss of potatoes, I found solace in other starchy vegetables. Sweet potatoes have always reigned supreme over any other true potato in my book, and I enjoyed a reason to romance their sweet, orange flesh. I adopted my mother's love for parsnips and beets at a young age, and explored their versatility further, quickly becoming obsessed with their different yet equally sweet flavors and hearty textures. I explored the glory of the celeriac, the gnarly vegetable that is also known as celery root, and took a liking to its unique, strong flavor. I tried every squash I could get my hands on, and prepared it almost every way I could think of. I mashed cauliflower to use as a topping for shepherd's pie, made creamy pureed soups from turnips, and made french fries out of rutabagas and carrots. 

Truly, I haven't missed potatoes a bit. 

Recipe: No-Bake Sweet Potato Pie (gluten-free, vegan, low-sugar, grain-free, nut-free)

No-Bake Sweet Potato Pie

The original recipe for this pie was published in my 2011 recipe calendar A Year to Eat Freely. It was a really fun recipe project that I had for sale through Etsy. While I won't be publishing another calendar for 2012, I really enjoyed the learning process and experience of creating the first calendar. 

I made a few tweaks to the original recipe and wanted to share it with you. It is different than a traditonal sweet potato pie that is baked, but has its own distinctive flavor and texture that is very good. It would be perfect for your holiday table. 

No-Bake Sweet Potato Pie

yield 1 8- or 9-inch pie


  • 3 cups cooked sweet potato puree (from about 2 1/2 pounds sweet potato, or 3 large)
  • 1 1/4 milk full fat coconut milk or other non-dairy milk (a fattier milk like nut milk or hemp milk is better)
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar powder or 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil, ghee, or other neutral-tasting oil
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 30-40 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


  • 3 tablespoon finely ground chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar, or more to taste
  • 25-30 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple cider or apple juice

Bake the Potatoes

Heat oven to 400° F. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork. Place the sweet potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Prepare Crust

While sweet potatoes cool, prepare crust. Lightly toast seeds and coconut in batches in a large dry sauté pan over medium heat, stirring often until lightly golden then remove from heat and let cool. Place cooled seeds and coconut in food processor, along with ground chia seeds, cinnamon, and salt, and grind until fine. Whisk together apple cider, maple syrup/honey/agave nectar, stevia, and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour into food processor with machine running, until it forms a sticky dough, stopping to scrape sides as needed. Add more apple cider/juice by the tablespoon if mixture is too dry. Let sit for 5 minutes. 

Lightly oil a glass pie plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the seed mixture, then press remaining mixture firmly on the bottom and sides of the pie plate, smoothing with wet fingers or a silicon spatula, forming a thick, even crust. Set aside as you prepare filing. 

Prepare Filling

Scoop out sweet potato flesh and place in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. If too thick or dry, add a small amount of apple juice, apple cider, or water by the tablespoon until mixture moves smoothly. Scoop out 3 cups to use for filling, and save any extra for other recipes. 

Sprinkle agar agar or gelatin over 1/4 cup of coconut milk and sit for 5 minutes, then whisk vigorously. While it sits, bring remaining 1 cup of milk to a boil in a saucepan. Add whisked gelatin/agar agar liquid and stir while simmering, whisking until fully dissolved, about 3-4 minutes. Add hot milk mixture to a food processor blender along with sweet potato and remaining filling ingredients. Process until totally smooth, adjusting sweetener to taste.

Assemble the Pie

Spread filling evenly into prepared crust, smoothing with a spatula, then sprinkling top of pie with reserved seed mixture. Place in the refrigerator and cool for at least 4 hours, until filling is firm. Remove from refrigerator and let sit out for 15-20 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Recipe: Homemade Vanilla Salt, Two Ways

Vanilla Salt

There are all kinds of fancy salts out there for you to blow your paycheck on. Confession: I own many of them

Thankfully, one of my favorite salts is one that I make at home. Vanilla salt couldn't be easier to prepare, and the end result is lovely. I have two methods for creating vanilla salt, yielding different yet equally delightful results. I am sharing both methods with you; try each one and see which fits you best. I use my vanilla salt in baked goods, with fruit, over roasted sweet potatoes or squash, sprinkled over chocolaty desserts, or with roasted or grilled meats (helloooooo pork and chicken). I think you'll like it too. If you decorate the jar with a cute label and a bit of ribbon, you have a wonderful homemade gift. 

Vanilla beans are über-expensive if you buy them one-by-one or in small quantities. The trick is to buy a big bag and split the cost with a friend. A fellow foodie and I split the cost of this 1/2 pound bag of vanilla beans. We each ended up with about 30 beans for only about $13 per person. Sweet deal, right? 

Recipe: Cabbage Apple Slaw (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, ACD)

Recipe: Cabbage Apple Slaw (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, ACD)

Cabbage-Apple Slaw

Simple slaws are ideal for every season of the year. They are crunchy and light, yet satisfying and filling, and endlessly adaptable to a variety of seasonal produce. Despite this, my favorite time of year for slaws is late summer and fall, when farmers markets are bursting with fresh, crisp cabbages. The sweet, glistening, unblemished leaves tempt me from every vendor table, and inevitably, I go home with a weighty cabbage in my market basket.

I was inspired to combine my beloved green cabbage with another locally grown favorite, the spectacular Honeycrisp apple. The Honeycrisp was developed by the University of Minnesota's Horicultural Research Center in the 1970s, and has won a devoted following of fans. There are a number of wonderful orchards in the Minnesota and Western Wisconsin that grow this apple, and every year I anticipate the arrival of locally grown Honeycrisps at my farmers market and co-op. The flavor is sweet like honey and slightly tart, and it has a marvelously crisp, juicy texture that is, in my opinion, the sign of a perfect apple. Equally good for eating raw or baking, Honeycrisp is one of my favorite apples, hands down. 

The combination of sweet, fresh cabbage, sweet and tart apple, plump golden raisins, toasted caraway, and a hint of nutmeg in this slaw is magic. It only takes minutes to prepare, and it holds up in the fridge for 2 days without becoming soggy. 

Oh me oh my, autumn tastes so good.