The other day, when the weatherman said it’d be -25°C with the wind chill and that we’d be graced with (more!) snow, I felt my lips curve into a child-like pout, uttering a defeated, “But, nooo…” as I stared into my closet, shivering in my nightgown, trying to decide which sweater was still up for the task.

Welcome to winter in Quebec.

If the snow and sleet and wind packed up and left tomorrow, I’m sure we would all let out a communal sigh of relief. In getting through the last vestiges of winter, we are are bagged, fed up, cranky and infirm. Almost everyone I know right now is hosting some wonderful microbial visitor – this season alone, my personal tally has included two sinus-colds, one big chest-cold, one bout of laryngitis, one digestive-related ailment, one 36-hour flu, and two sprained necks.

Sexiest winter EVER.

For one reason or another, my system’s been under siege since December. Right around when one thing would end, another would begin. After making my way through dozens of lemon-ginger infusions, spoonfuls of honey and doses of Buckley’s syrup (not to mention a few lacklustre dates with Mr.Neti Pot and Mr.Humidifier), it seemed a different tactic was in order. Then I remembered hearing about a traditional folk elixir by the name of Fire Cider – a potent, pungent concoction used by herbalists to ward off the evil spirits of winter (rhinovirus, norovirus, bronchiolitis, and all their friends).

Essentially, it’s a witches’ brew of sweet and savoury elements all jammed into one jar. At once peppery, astringent, funky and sweet, the first taste will be intense and astonishing, but once you’ve got a spoonful racing down your throat, you’ll feel recharged and pumped and ready to get back on the bandwagon.

(or at least ready to slip on that sweater and brace the cold again)

Fire Cider – adapted from herbalist Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe (check out the cute video here!)

Makes about 1 pint
Fire Cider ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced garlic
  • 1/2 cup peeled and diced onion
  • 1/4 cup peeled and diced ginger
  • 1/4 cup peeled and diced turmeric
  • 1 habanero chile, split in half
  • 1 orange (or blood orange), quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 lemon, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 to 3 cups apple cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
  • 1/4 cup honey, or more to taste

Place all of the vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices in a clean 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with vinegar, covering all the ingredients and making sure there are no air bubbles. Cap the jar. If using a metal lid, place a piece of parchment or wax paper between the jar and the lid to prevent corrosion from the vinegar. Shake well.

Let the jar sit for 3 weeks, shaking daily.

Strain the vinegar into a clean jar. Add more honey to taste. Refrigerate and use within 6 months.

Fire Cider

*Note: if you have a bold palate, you can take the cider straight up (1-2 tablespoons at the first sign of a cold, repeating every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside; alternately, some take it throughout the winter season as a preventative). If it turns out that this elixir is too intense for you to knock back straight, here are some nifty ways you can incorporate it into your edibles.

  • Use in place of vinegar in salad dressings, condiments and marinades
  • Drizzle on steamed vegetables or sautéed greens
  • Add to soups and chilis
  • Add a couple dashes in your next Bloody Mary