Now that the chill of fall is here, there are lots of things to love: changing leaves, breezy walks, warm teas, stews in the slow cooker, bonfires, and much more. What's not to love is that fall marks the start of cold season. And flu season. And who-knows-what-it-is-but-you-feel-like-crap season. We are inside more often, getting less sunlight, and usually eat fewer fruits and vegetables, so we are more prone to getting sick. Pumping up your immune system has got to be a priority during this time of year.
Instead of getting vaccines full of mercury, formaldehyde and other poisons, or relying on bottles of Ny-Quil to get you through, how about taking your health into your own hands with some homemade medicine? Enter Fire Tonic.
Also known as Fire Cider (read about that controversy here...), Dragon Tonic and a few other names, Fire Tonic is a traditional folk remedy for colds, flus and what ails you. It is an herbal medicine made with herbs and vegetables, extracted in raw apple cider vinegar, that is full of immune-boosting and sickness-fighting properties. Your sick (or getting sick) body will thank you for crafting this spicy, sweet, tangy, pungent medicine, and you will likely feel like a million bucks after a shot of this stuff. The horseradish is great for opening up the lungs and getting mucus flowing, and the honey soothes the throat. Fire Tonic is packed with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, digestive-promoting, and vitamin C-rich veggies and herbs that are sure to do the trick.
Even if you aren't feeling sick, this is great to help strengthen and enhance the immune system to help protect you against sickness, as well as a general warming tonic during these cooler months. This firey blend is also fantastic for the digestive system! This kind of vinegar extraction is similar to an oxymel, as it is also infused into vinegar and honey (instead of alcohol or glycerine). The difference between this preparation and and an oxymel is that the latter is boiled down to a syrup while this Fire Tonic is kept in its raw state. I love vinegar extractions and oxymels because they are safer for more populations and usually have a much more pleasant taste than alcohol extractions. Plus, the word is cool....oxymel....nice....here's a great article on using honey and vinegar for making herbal medicine!
If you start a big batch now, you not only will have plenty to get you through the winter, but you could also give lovely bottles of homemade Fire Tonic to your loved ones for the holidays! People love homemade gifts, and this is really inexpensive to make!
Make sure you get only organic ingredients and use raw, local honey as well. This is cheap and easy to make but the quality of the ingredients is of the utmost importance. This recipe is for a quart-sized jar, but you could double or quadruple if you're really hardcore. Or, if you really don't want to make your own Fire Tonic but think it sounds rad, you can look for several brands at your local health food store or online herbal suppliers.
(Makes ~1 quart)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup grated ginger
1/4 cup grated horseradish root
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot peppers, diced, such as jalapeno
2 Tbs fresh turmeric, grated, or 1 Tbs dried turmeric
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup raw honey or to taste
2-3 springs fresh rosemary
3 Tbs dried rose hips
2 Tbs dried oregano (or fresh)
Pack the prepared vegetables and herbs into a clean quart-sized glass jar. I made one batch with rosemary and one with rose hips, but you could add many different herbs or just make a simpler cider and omit extras. Pour apple cider vinegar over the herbs and fill to the top. This will take about 3 cups of vinegar, but it may vary slightly.
Cover with a plastic lid, or a metal lid with a piece of parchment between the lid and jar to prevent rusting. Seal tightly and shake for several minutes.
Label and date the jar or jars, with the name and when you started it. Wait 4-6 weeks, shaking for a minute or two every few days to fully infuse the vinegar with the herbal goodness. After one month, strain out the vegetables and add the liquid back to the jar, adding 1/4 cup raw honey or to taste. You may save the strained veggies/herbs and use in a salad or as a condiment; it will be strong and delicious!
As a tonic: Take ~1 Tbs daily to boost immune function or promote digestion. If you are new to using apple cider vinegar this much, start with 1 tsp and work up to a higher dose. You could take this 2-3 times per day if you start to feel a sickness coming on as well. If you have a sensitive stomach, be cautious and use smaller amounts, as it is quite acidic.
This will keep for several months, either on the counter or in the fridge. I keep mine refrigerated for a longer shelf life, and I really like the way it tastes and feels on my throat when it is chilled.
Fall is by far my favorite season, and apples are a big part of fall's charm for me. Apple picking at orchards, old fashioned cider pressings, and cinnamon-spiced desserts are an essential part of this season, and I love it. For those times where you have an abundance of apples, or have some that are less-than-perfect and need to be used asap, making apple butter is here to save you.
I sweetened mine with maple syrup, but you could experiment with other kinds of natural sweeteners to suit your tastes. If you are using wild or some types of heirloom apples that are much less sweet than those at the store, you may need to increase the amount of sweetener used; alternately, some store-bought varieties will run sweeter, so adjust as needed.
I love using my slow cooker as much as possible, especially in the colder months. For that rare time that it isn't filled with bone broth, making fruit butter is a great way to use the slow cooker to save time in the kitchen. You could do this on the stove top, but this makes the process really convenient, and your house will smell amazing.
Slow Cooker Maple Apple Butter
Makes ~1 quart
8 cups chopped apples, ~3 lbs whole apples (I leave the skin on)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs cinnamon powder
1 tsp each allspice, clove and ginger powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2-1 cup maple syrup, depending on the sweetness of your apples
Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover with lid and set slow cooker to low. Let cook for approximately 8 hours, or until the apples have cooked down by half and the mixture has a dark, almost brown color. The mixture should be extremely soft.
Let mixture cool for 15-20 minutes before blending. I used an immersion blender to make my butter, but you could transfer your apple mixture to a food processor or blender. Puree until very smooth.
Transfer to glass jars and refrigerate.
This should keep for around 2 weeks in the fridge--but extra jars can be frozen until ready to thaw and use to extend the shelf life.
Serve on buttered sourdough toast, on top of roasted butternut squash, or even with pork!
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.