Monday, August 30, 2021

Our Autumn and Winter Home Apothecary

Last year while I was traveling in the van, I spent a lot of time studying up on herbs and specifically on building your own home apothecary.  When we arrived back home in December, one of the first things I made was Fire Cider. I have struggled with seasonal allergies and ear aches all of my life, and since fire cider is known to help treat colds, I figured it might do the same for alleviating the symptoms of allergies. It also claims to boost your immune system, and in this day and age, that's definitely a good thing! What I do know is once I started taking it, my sinuses were clearer, and as a result my allergy symptoms were much improved, and while my ear felt full at times, I avoided my annual ear infection!

This year I added Four Thieves vinegar to the mix. The origin of the name is a little dark. The story goes that during the 18th century plague in Europe, four thieves robbed the homes and graves of those who were sick and dying yet never became sick themselves, supposedly attributed to their consumption of this herbal tonic. So while I won't be using it for that purpose, **wink wink**, I decided that I would give it a try as well. This vinegar is made with garlic, a strong antibacterial in its own right, combined with four different herbs, one for each thief, but many recipes call for more.(see below). *It is used to help to prevent the spread of communicable diseases like the common cold and influenza.  

So as you can see, both of these vinegars serve similar purposes, and perhaps making them both might seem like a bit of an overkill, but since I'd never tried Four Thieves, I decided to give it a try and see how I like it.  If you're interested in adding one or both of them to your home apothecary, here are the recipes I used. This week I'll be adding Elderberry Syrup and Fermented Garlic Honey to our apothecary and I'll share those with you, as well!

1 large red onion, chopped
3 heads garlic, chopped
1 organic lemon with peel, diced
½ cup fresh ginger root, grated
½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated
¼ cup fresh horseradish root, grated
¼ cup fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
A few fresh cayenne or jalapeño peppers 
If you want your fire cider spicier, you might use more peppers, or omit them altogether.  You can always add more later. I like mine spicy and used one of each!
1 Cinnamon stick
Honey to taste
Raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar

This recipe is VERY flexible. These are the ingredients I use, but you can substitute some and add others.  Just google "Fire Cider" for a wealth of variations and choose the one you like best. Last year I used an orange instead of lemon, and may still add it back in!

Place all ingredients except honey in a half-gallon jar, and cover with raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Be sure to cover the herbs by at least a few inches, then cut a square of parchment or wax paper and cover the jar before tightly capping it.

Store in a warm place for a two weeks, shaking the jar daily.

After three weeks, your fire cider is ready to use, but you can keep infusing for much longer if you prefer, before straining it. 

Once you are ready, strain out the herbs from the liquid, or you can blend the whole batch in a blender and and let it sit for an additional week before pouring off the liquid. If you do, there is no need to shake it so that the ingredients are allowed to settle.

Once you’ve finished infusing the herbs, add warmed raw honey to taste, I usually add about a 1/3 of a cup. Mix thoroughly, and bottle. It will keep for several months unrefrigerated if stored in a cool place, but longer if you do refrigerate it, perhaps indefinitely!

Fire Cider can be taken as a shot, just pour 1 oz. into a shot glass and drink it straight up! You can add extra honey or cayenne to taste if you like.

Add a couple of tablespoons to your herbal tea, it's especially nice with lemon ginger tea.  If you don't like tea, you can mix it with hot water and honey. 

You can add a small amount to orange juice or lemonade for the littles in your life, of even for yourself, if you prefer.

Fire cider also makes an excellent marinade for chicken, or drizzled over salads .

NOTE: For the "four" dried herbs, You can choose herbs with the properties you desire by doing a little research. As with the fire cider, if you google "Four Thieves Vinegar", you'll find a a number of variations, many of them using more than four herbs. This is another recipe that is very flexible. The recipe I followed called for six different herbs and I added two more from another recipe I found, so technically this is Eight Thieves Vinegar!

4 cloves of garlic, cloves separated, skins removed, and crushed 
1 Tablespoon of dried thyme
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 teaspoon of dried juniper berries
1 teaspoon of lavendar
1/2 teaspoon of dried sage
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups of organic apple cider vinegar (you can also use regular vinegar, if preferred)

Add all of the herbs to the jar, and cover with apple cider vinegar. 

Place a piece of cheesecloth or wax paper over the top of the jar and screw the lid on tightly.

Shake and store in a cool, dry place for two weeks. 

After two weeks the vinegar is ready to use. You can either strain the herbs, or leave them in, the choice is yours.

Four thieves vinegar can be used as an all-purpose cleaning spray, by adding one part vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle.

As with fire cider, you can use it as a vinaigrette and drizzle it over salad.

*To use medicinally, take one teaspoon a day to ward off germs.

* The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.

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