The term Fire Cider has been around since the 1980s thanks to Rosemary Gladstar (a renowned herbalist). However, the concept of this tonic has been around for ages. Many people have parents or grandparents who fed them homemade elixirs or teas of honey, garlic, ginger and/or horseradish for winter time coughs or springtime allergies. A few years later and there are plenty of us who are worse for wear (or watched numerous family and friends) having survived thus far through the standard Western medicine money-grabbing machine. It's time to learn and develop self-sufficient health positive skills, complimentary treatments and preventative tools to be used for overall health maintenance.
I was first introduced to this tonic last winter and after attending a local weekly Folk Herbalist Revival session where we discussed the power of herbal medicines I knew it was time to start new batch. So with the help of the local herbalists session and a Mountain Rose Blog recipe I put this together:
My not-so-precise Fire Cider recipe brewed on October 3, 2015:
*All organic ingredients*
Equal portions of red, white and yellow onion
About half of the portions of onions in equal portion: garlic, ginger and fresh turmeric root
3 different hot peppers (with seeds)
Zest & juice of a lemon
Heaping teaspoons of: multi-coloured peppercorns, cloves, allspice and star anise
All topped with raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to cover.
(Sadly I couldn't find horseradish root at the time of making this batch... next time though!)
I placed the sealed bottle in a pantry cupboard and checked on it nearly daily. Shaking the bottle to mix the ingredients and watched the concoction change over the next few weeks from slightly murky to all the ingredients taking on the similar brownish colour (except the red hot peppers) and the smell reaching a spectacularly pungent kick.
After three weeks, I decided it was time to filter. The now mineral rich and powerful tonic had been infusing for 21 days was filtered from the contents and I added about 1/2 cup of raw unpasteurized honey. This last ingredient has two great benefits: firstly it sweetens the brew to reduce the harshness of the medicine and secondly, it brings the added benefits of wonderful raw unpasteurized honey to the mix!
After I posted the Fire Cider images above to my Instagram page I received a lot of great feedback looking for more details on the medicinal properties. Without making this the longest blog post ever and listing the seemingly endless details of each ingredient's property here are some key features that I like to focus on with this medicine:
- A potent flavonoid in onions called quercetin has been studied quite a bit for the antioxidant properties in preventing cancer. Also note that red onions have the highest levels of quercetin.
- Contains the compound allyl propyl disulphide and studies have shown that it seems to have a similar effect as insulin in balancing blood sugar levels.
- Fun Fact: Egyptians loved onions so much that they were regarded as objects of worship and images of the plant have been found inside some pyramids and tombs.
- Allicin is the compound of great attention here as it has profound antibiotic properties.
- The funny thing about allicin is that it is actually a defense mechanism created by two enzymes, allinase and alliin, and is produced after the plant have been injured. Therefore, chop or crush your garlic and get the most out of your food medicine folks!
- Also, there are blood pressure regulating properties in garlic when red blood cells produce hydrogen sulfide gas after absorbing the sulphuric compounds from the garlic consumed. This gas works by expanding blood vessels which in turn can lower/regulate blood pressure!
- The anti-inflammatory properties of ginger are complex. The most potent compound is called gingerol (aka -gingerol... there are a few different numbers of this compound) and a number of studies have shown significant effect with arthritis patients.
- Added bonus there are anti-oxidative (keeps you young!) and antimicrobial properties. All good for the stressed out and not-always-good-for-you microbe filled environments we live and play in!
- Known as one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories on the planet and has been used in Aruvedic medicine for thousands of years.
- A component of great interest is curcumin as it has postitive effects on the body produced molecules that cause inflammation. Very important for alleviating arthritis.
- Yet another potent ingredient that does not disappoint with its many compounds and healing properties. The chief one for me being the antioxidant activities of the flavonoids (with phenolic acids) and capsaicinoids characteristics of hot peppers.
- Another amazing benefit, particularly because of my interest in fermenting anything I can find, is that there's been at least one study showing particularly positive evidence of the effects on heart health from consuming fermented red peppers. I will keep you posted as now I'm really looking forward to making my own fermented red pepper hot sauce!
- These little flavour spheres come in a variety of colours and contain an amazing compound called piperine that has been studied for its anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects.
- However, what I found really cool about piperine is the anti-angiogenic effects. This means that it stops the growth progression of tumours... There still needs to be more studies on this major alkaloid but it's looking good so far!
- Also, there's potential that piperine may be effective in treating macular degeneration too!
- Known by many cultures and for centuries for its oral health properties it has also been studied for more of its localized numbing effects. It's been called the "most penetrating spice plant" (which totally sounds dirty) and because of that feature more studies are being done.
- Cloves boost circulation while also being a pain desensitizer. The latter effect is caused by the compound eugenol.
- These little spheres of spice that taste like all the other spices combined has origins in Jamaica and has some similar properties as cloves.
- Fun fact: It was recorded that soldiers fighting with Napoleon in 1812 would crush and sprinkle allspice on their feet and in the boots to help keep them warm and ward off infection.
- By the time I reached this ingredient in my research I didn't think I could be more impressed by the powers of spices but Star Anise knocked it out of the park!
- The star compound (pun intended) where a lot of research has been focused is called shikimic acid and known as the "starter ingredient" for the widely used Tamiflu medication that was distributed worldwide during the swine flu scare a few years ago.
- Although amazing in its powers, to extract one pound of shikimic acid it requires 30 pounds of star anise. This created a significant price spike of this already not-so-cheap spice during the swine flu scare.
- These bright yellow fruits have been known for their health benefits for centuries especially in regards to its vitamin C properties.
- Vitamin C plays a vital role in a lot of functions but one that I did not know about until recently was that it works in the formation of collagen, which in turn is extremely beneficial for skin tone and overall healthy skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- There are countless claims to the health benefits of apple cider vinegar on the internet. However, there is also plenty of legitimate scientific studies to back up many of these claims.
- The more important to me is its antioxidant properties due to the polyphenol compounds in ACV which reduces cancer risks.
- An ancient healing nectar that humans have been harvesting for thousands of years - there's even cave drawings in Spain from 8,000 years ago depicting a harvest!
- Among its many health benefits, the antimicrobial abilities of honey have been studied throughout the scientific community and whether you use raw or processed it is still very powerful. In any case, I always prefer raw honey and as local as possible.
By learning what is in and how to make our own medicines I believe a positive ripple of empowerment, health and positivity naturally expands through our connections, communities and throughout the world... one small but powerful individual step at a time.
Will you try making your own medicine? Will you share this knowledge with your family and friends and expand the ripple?
P.S. If you have read this far I'm really humbled and wanted to share one final tip... When you chop raw turmeric expect to get yellowed fingers, cutting boards, knives and pretty much anything it comes in to contact with. It's worth it though, only lasts a few days and is far better than using a rubber glove that will just end up in the garbage. Also, scrubbing with a bit of baking soda helps to remove the yellow staining from your kitchen tools!
*Reference for cloves, allspice and star anise: Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. By: Aggarwal, Bharat B.
Well it's been a while since my last post and I have no excuse. So here it goes...
I love this recipe so much. It is a blend of flavours and textures that I have not found anywhere else, let alone in a vegetarian sandwich that even my meat-centric friends have loved. It was even recently featured for a few days at a local grab-and-go eatery!
The only issue with this recipe is that it does take time and preparation to put it all together... but I guarantee that it is worth all of the effort. Give it a shot and let me know how it works out for you!
Grilled Marinated Eggplant
*serves 4-8 depending on how big/small you make the sandwiches
2 large eggplants
Himalayan or sea salt
1 package halloumi cheese
2-3 sweet peppers (whichever colour you want)
Reduced balsamic vinegar (I prefer the pre-packaged variety)
Pesto (homemade or store bought)
Veganaise (or your favourite mayonnaise of choice)
Chef Yatu Ethiopian Spice Paste – Medium (available at Sunterra grocery – or just use any spice paste blend that you like)
**Again... this process has a lot of steps so it is really important to read this through completely and be prepared for it to all come together. It’s worth it, I promise you! **
Slice eggplant lengthwise in to 1 – 2 cm thick strips. Salt both sides and rub lightly to start the naturally bitter eggplant water extraction and lay the slices in a shallow but wide container (I use glass Pyrex dishes) while preparing the marinade and rest of ingredients:
Using a clean dishtowel (let’s use less paper towels, k?!?), lightly rub off excess salt from eggplant, rinse and dry the container, and place eggplant back in to the dish.
Coat eggplant slices completely with marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (up to 8 hours for extra great results). Rotating slices whenever you think about it (or every other hour or so).
About a half hour before grilling, remove the marinating eggplant from fridge rotating slices in marinade one more time.
Start BBQ and place prepared peppers on grill while pre-heating the grill to low-medium-ish heat turning once to get that slightly charred look. Remove peppers from the grill, place in small bowl and cover with plate. This will help soften them a little bit more while cooling slightly.
Now it is time to grill the eggplant slices!
Using tongs, gently lift the each slice out of marinade, letting excess marinade run off and place slices on the grill. Add lime juice to remaining marinade and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Grill slices over low heat for 5-8 minutes on each side until cooked through (they sometimes puff out a little bit – that’s a good sign to indicate that they are for sure cooked through!). Place cooked eggplant back in to the reserved marinade and rotate to get them saucy again.
While eggplant is grilling place sliced halloumi directly on grill but with the burners off underneath. Or, better yet, pan-fry the slices separately which can be much easier to control the heat for the semi-melty cheese and therefore result in much less cooking stress. Although, you will need a second person to help do this while watching the grill if you don’t have a side burner. However you tackle this step, the cheese is "done" when the surface is slightly browned on both sides and removed from the pan/bbq on to a plate.
Once all the grilling is complete is time to assemble the sandwich!!
Peppers - cut peppers in to strips, drizzle with a bit (a heaping teaspoon or so) of reduced balsamic vinegar and gently toss to coat.
Greens – use a few teaspoons of the eggplant marinade to lightly dress the greens.
Eggplant - remove a slice of eggplant from the post-bbq marinade and slice to fit your bun.
On the bottom half of the bun spread the Veganaise/spice paste mixture and on the top half bun spread the pesto.
Now to layer, starting from the bottom bun: eggplant, grilled peppers, halloumi, dressed mixed greens and finally the top bun!
Eat and be happy!