Fire Cider, and other stories.

The other morning I wandered out onto the stoop and the entire city was enshrouded in a blanket of fog. I ran inside to grab the essentials: slippers, hat, coffee and blanket, and then I sat on the edge of my stoop, on the edge of the world, watching the mysterious shapes appear and re-appear, until the sun had come up a bit more, and the fog had burned off, and everything was returned to normal.

Such mornings remind me of my childhood, in a place that had major seasons. Southern California has seasons too: if you were to take a walk up into the hills, sycamore leaves would be all over the paths, the skeletons of milk thistles and goldenrod would stand out against the brown grass tinged with a slight frost, and the earth is that deep, dark, sodden brown that only happens after a few good rains. There are seasons in the hills. Its just that, being from the UK, I want more. And at this time of year, when friends are sending me pictures of first, second and third snows. When leaves are frosting over and wood fires are being burned, I start to feel a little ungrateful towards the constant sunlight. There are, however, solutions to self-imposed misery over something so silly. Namely, booking a trip north for me and Jam. And while it won’t be to the snow this time, it will at least be to somewhere cold, incredibly beautiful, and very stormy (Big Sur). And I’m excited. I’m also excited about being out in the desert for Christmas. There will be trips up to the snow, and trips to gather some of my favourite plants, and trips to hang out in my favourite canyons, and it will be action-packed and very exciting.

In the mean time, a few things have been happening. The first being that I have been inundated with business for the holiday season (I am slightly overwhelmed with joy and gratefulness about said inundation). The second being that chanterelle season has hit Northern California so my foraging friends and I are getting out into the mountains at every possible moment because its not long before they come up here. A few heavy rains are a good sign, as are dropping temperatures and heavy marine layers. My searches take me further and further afield, setting off into the wilderness at a ninety-degree angle from my usual trails. Herbalist Paul Bergner talked once about how we expand when we leave the trails in our lives, and I can’t help but think of him as I set off, big stick in hand, into the tall grasses and undergrowth. The third is that people are getting sick. This herbal elf has been making house calls, with a basket of elderberry elixir, lung grunge elixir, diaphoretic tea and, my new favourite, Fire Cider. Fire Cider is basically just spicy-stuff-infused apple cider vinegar. But man, let me tell you, if you have a blocked nose, or congested sinuses, of if you feel like you’re starting to come down with something, it’ll clear you up right away, while making you go ‘WOOOOOOOHOOOO!’ after you’ve swallowed.

The recipe is simple, and you can also alter it as you see fit: Juliet Blankespoor of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine makes a roselle-hibiscus

one that looks divine. If you hate horseradish leave it out, if you love horseradish, add more. If you want it super spicy, add more habaneros. If you’re a vampire, leave out the garlic. Really, this is a basic structure and you’re welcome to do with it what you will. And as for what to do with it… by the spoonful works well if you’re coming down with something. I leave it on the counter and take a swig when I pass by.

Fire Cider

1 big bottle apple cider vinegar

8 cloves garlic

1 onion

20 sprigs thyme

1/2 cup chopped horseradish root

5 chopped habanero (or jalapeno) peppers

2 tb turmeric (dried works fine)

1/4 cup chopped ginger
1 cup honey (I used echinacea-infused honey, but you can use any type of honey you like)


Other things I used which you might or might not have access to:

calamus root (1/4 cup)

white fir needles (1/2 cup) (you can sub pine, spruce or any kind of fir)

yarrow flowers (handful)


Using a 1/2 gallon mason jar or something equivalent, chop up and throw in all the ingredients except the honey (using any additions or leave-outs you want), then cover with vinegar. Shake well, then leave somewhere prominent for a month. Prominent so that you notice it, and shake it when you notice it. After a month, strain out all the solids, then taste it. Is it spicy enough? Garlicy enough? Flavourful enough? If so, stir in the honey and bottle it. If not, tinker with it as you see fit, then add the honey when its ready.


  • Butter

    Ok, so hunting mushrooms in December… I’d trade a bit of my snow and real winter for some of that hot action!

    Secondly, so excited to finally learn what this mysterious fire cider is. I’ve been scratching my head every time you’ve mentioned it. Ah-ha!

  • Michael Blackmore

    Not only a classic, but I love seeing all the variations bring bring to their fire ciders!

  • Rachel

    Mushroom hunting sounds divine. My father-in-law does some amateur mushroom gathering, he has a friend who is an expert and consults with him before eating. He’s found some very delicious ones here in Pennsylvania. (I’d be happy to trade places with you during winter btw, I hate snow)

    Love, love, loving the fire cider idea. I just checked out of the library this large book on natural medicine and have been delving into herbal remedies. This is gold! I cannot wait to make it. Do you use raw apple cider vinegar like braggs, that still has the mother in it? or is the vinegar already filtered?

  • Reg-o-rama

    Fire Cider is one of my favoritest things in the world (although I’ve used a different recipe: no thyme, peppers, turmeric, or honey but with a heavy dash of paprika). You’ve heard of, of course, Susun Weed?

  • andrea gentl

    happy new year to you! so funny! i have a fire cider post in the works as we speak.. like minds!! my friend india passed on a great recipe to me last summer and i have been waiting for the colder weather to post it. i do have some white pine so maybe i will add that. ; ) mine does not call for thyme but i love that idea! we must meet up this year! have a lovely evening.xxxxx

    • fairybekk

      You, madam, should definitely stop by for a cup of tea next time you’re in LA :).

  • Reg-o-rama

    I got a recipe for fire cider from Susun Weed’s forum and have been making it for years. Never used thyme, turmeric, honey, or peppers, though! Will use them next year (I need to strain this year’s batch for holiday gifts!) to try them out. Thank you for sharing!!

  • Sheryl

    Hi there, this may be a really silly question – but after straining does this need to be refrigerated? If not (or if so) how long will it keep?

    Thank you :)

    • fairybekk

      Nope, its totally shelf stable :).