Tag Archives: ginger

Fiery Jun Vinegar (A Variation on Fire Cider)

2 Jan

In the last year or so, I’ve noticed this stuff called Fire Cider on the shelves of crunchy stores in my neighborhood.  It’s apple cider vinegar infused with a bunch of spicy things.  It always looks appealing until I look at the price tag, and an 8 oz bottle is easily over 10 dollars.  Then I look at the ingredients and say, “Self, you could make that really easily.”  Months went by and I didn’t get around to it.   But, now it’s a New Year!  After a several-month hiatus from my blogging (not my fermenting, mind you),   I am making a comeback with my own version of fire cider.

P.S.,  Since I first wrote this entry,  I have noticed some prominent herbalists voicing concern over the company that distributes fire cider.  Although Shire City Herbals have popularized it by reaching a wide distribution, they certainly did not invent it.  However,  they have trademarked the name: one which I believe the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar originally coined.  One of my readers recently posted a comment to remind me of the lack of integrity that this company has displayed.  You can read more about the problem in this article she offered me.   So, may I suggest that you don’t support Shire City Herbals with your purse, but instead contribute to the age-old tradition of making your own!

8oz Fire Cider

This is the stuff popping up on my health food store shelves lately.

The choice to compile it was quite spontaneous: I’ve been growing a number of Jun mothers for folks who are interested in buying them.  In the winter, my kitchen runs on the cold side.  My Jun brew ferments, but the mothers grow slowly.  I stuck my fermenting jars on top of a seedling mat to encourage growth, but it has only helped so much.  My most recent SCOBYs have been growing for a month. I have some nice ones now, but alas, my jun has gone to vinegar.  What to do with all that vinegar?

Eureka!  Fire Jun Vinegar!  I made my first batch today.  I originally looked up the ingredients that the fire cider people use, via their website, www.firecider.com, and then I found another recipe on one of my favorite herbal sites, mountainroseherbs.com.  Mountain Rose herbs is primarily a vendor, but they also have a blog with recipes.  Between the two references, I compiled my own plan, and I threw together some ingredients that I had on hand.  Here’s what I came up with.  If you check out their pages, you’ll notice that both of the other recipes incorporate horseradish.  I may try this in the future, but that’s not an ingredient I keep around my kitchen, so it’s not in there for this round.  Use your own creativity and see what’s in your pantry to make your own.

Fiery Jun Vinegar

In a quart jar, combine:

1/2 onion, chopped

1/4 cup of grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup of grated fresh turmeric

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme

8 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 chilis de arbol (I have these really hot dried chills from the company Rancho Gordo)

2 Tbsp of lemon juice (Fresh with the rind would be great, but what I had on hand was some frozen cubes of lemon juice from a few months ago when I had a bunch of lemons I couldn’t eat fast enough)

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Pour your month long-fermented Jun that has turned to vinegar and is way too sour to be palatable as a beverage by itself over the rest of the ingredients.  


Wait 4-6 weeks for the jun vinegar to be infused with the spices.  You may want to shake the jar occasionally, and you may want to burp the jar in case your jun wasn’t fully fermented into vinegar yet and starts to build up pressure.  Use a plastic lid if you have one, or put some parchment or wax paper between the jar and your metal lid, as jun likes to corrode metal.

Strain out the spices through a cheesecloth into a new, clean vessel, squeezing the extra goodness out of the spices at the end.  

Mix honey into the brew to suit your taste.  

Your fiery jun vinegar can be consumed by the spoonful– all the spices in it are sure to make a great immune tonic.  You can also use it as a vinegary addition to salad dressings, or to spice up a fresh juice or an herbal tea.  If you try it out, let me know how you decide to use it!

Here’s my ingredients all stacked up nicely like a parfait before I shook it up:



Ginger Beer: Warmth in a Cool Drink

14 Dec

Last month I made my latest batch of ginger beer, a project which I tend to do once a year around this time.  Ginger is great at any time, but cool weather prompts me to use warming spices.  There are different ways to go about making ginger beer.  Three methods are listed below.

A few years ago, I invested in a ginger beer plant from a fermenter in England.  Ginger beer plant purportedly is the most “genuine” way to make ginger beer.   Unfortunately, my ginger beer plant did not last very long.  The process of using it is a little bit like fermenting with water kefir, but the grains of ginger beer plant reproduce more slowly and are much finer than tibicos.  With each ferment I did, I lost some of my grains.  I was using a kitchen towel to strain the grains out, and inevitably, the fine grains would adhere to the towel and I would not be able to recover them all.  I already have three other types of starter to play with, so I was only a little sad as I watched the ginger beer plant whittle itself slowly away.   The beverage that the ginger beer plant produced was pleasant and different, but not necessarily superior to my tastes.

If you have water kefir (tibicos) grains hanging around, this would be another way to make ginger beer.  The brew method would be comparable to making ginger beer with the ginger beer plant.

I’ve taken to the ginger “bug” method to make ginger beer.  It’s a wild-ferment way to create your own scoby culture.  I would compare it most to the concept of sourdough, as the process is about feeding a culture every day with the right stuff to attract the right local yeasts to your jar.  The ginger bug method I use method comes from my Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, by Sally Fallon.  Sandor Katz also offers an adaptation of Sally’s recipe in his book Wild Fermentation.  You could also get creative with ginger bug as a starter,

and create any number of flavored sodas with it.

Making a ginger bug:


That’s the ginger bug right before I decanted it. It got to a point where it was bubbly enough that I was keeping the jar inside a bowl in case of overflow, to save my countertop from stickiness.

Grate 2 tsp of fresh ginger.  Put it in a pint sized jar.  Get as much of the juicy stuff in as you can.

Add 2 tsp of white sugar, and 1 c water.

Seal the jar and shake it.  Let it sit.

Every day, add another 2 tsp of ginger and 2tsp of sugar, and shake the jar daily or more.

After a few days or up to a week, your mixture will get bubbly.  You will see the bubbles when you shake, but also beforehand.  This bubbly brew is your ginger bug.  You have effectively  invited the yeasts from the air to inhabit your sugar-ginger-water mix.

Making ginger beer from your bug:

Boil half a gallon of water.

Add 1 to 1.5 cups of sweetener to the water.  While the ginger bug is necessarily made with white sugar to attract your yeasts, this sweetener could be anything:  maple syrup, birch syrup, sucanot, brown sugar, molasses.  I recommend staying away from honey.  This last batch I did was with molasses, and it gave the whole drink a beautiful, rich color.

Mix well to dissolve your sweetener, then mix in another half gallon of water.  Your mixture should now be cool enough to comfortably touch.  Add the juice of 2 lemons, and the liquid from your ginger bug.  Taste your mix.  If you want it to be more gingery, grate some more fresh ginger and squeeze the ginger juice from your gratings into the pot.  Let this mixture sit for about a week, covered to keep out flies, and then bottle it.


The bottled brew. Notice how I have a couple plastic bottles in the batch. These are handy in testing your carbonation levels: when the plastic bottle gets more rigid to the touch, you know it’s ready to transfer to the fridge.

Depending on how active your culture is, you can leave the bottles out at room temperature for some time to build up bubbles.  A good test is to use at least one plastic bottle.  When the plastic becomes rigid from the pressure of gas build up, it’s time to “burp” your bottles and put them in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, you can end up with glass bombs that are quite dangerous!  (See my cherry explosion incident from last summer).  The safe bottle time at room temp could be as short as a few hours, especially if you do this in the summer, to about two weeks.  I have had batches at both extremes.

If you really dig ginger beer, you could now add another cup of water to the sediment left over from your ginger bug, and begin feeding it sugar and ginger every day again.  The culture may be ready sooner this time, as you have already gotten the organisms started.  I’ve never tried to keep my bug going, as I couldn’t keep up with drinking it.

If you want to make this an especially “warming” drink, add some dark rum to your glass, and an optional wedge of lime.  Now you have a dark n’ stormy!

Herbal Kombucha add-ins

14 Oct

I remember when I was first introduced to kombucha: Synergy’s Gingerberry flavor was my gateway drug, so to speak. Flavoring is certainly helpful if you want to convert a newbie to the kombucha club, as straight-up kombucha is an acquired taste. By the time you start making your own brews, you’ll probably already like kombucha enough that you don’t require extra flavoring, but it can be fun for variation. Also, herbs can give even greater therapeutic qualities to this already strong elixer of health.

Below are some of my favorite herbal add-ins. I add the herbs AFTER the initial fermentation process. I put them in when I’m bottling my kombucha, and then I put the bottled brew right into the fridge. Wait at least a day for the flavors to seep in from the herbs. You can also leave the bottles out at room temperature for a little while to speed absorption of the herbs into your brew– this will help your kombucha build up bubbles if you like it fizzy since the brew will continue to ferment, unhindered by the refrigeration process. Use about a teaspoon of most herbs for a pint bottle of kombucha, or vary your amounts to taste. You can also mix and match the flavors:


Hibiscus will make your kombucha turn a tempting red and develop a pleasant, fruity floral taste! This is the only type of kombucha that my skeptic boyfriend will drink– I think it’s the red flavor that draws him in. When you drink it, you can strain out the hibiscus as you pour it, or if you’re like me, you might like to eat the hibiscus pieces. Hibiscus is high in Vitamin C. It is also mildly diuretic and laxative. I personally find it very helpful in reducing phlegm. Research has indicated that hibiscus might also help lower blood pressure.


Elderberry: Get dried elderberries at your local herbal or health-food store. Put them in your kombucha. The brew turns purple! Elderberries are great for colds and the flu.

Rose hips: mildly fruity in flavor, these will add a boost of Vitamin C to your drink. They are another great way to boost your immune system against colds and infection. Also help with mild constipation and are a tonic for the gall-bladder.


Ginger: Grate or finely chop fresh ginger root and toss it in. Ginger helps to make more fizz. You can eat the ginger pieces or strain them out when serving. Ginger has a multitude of medicinal uses. It’s great as a digestive (promotes gastric secretions and tones the stomach) and for menstrual cramps and promoting menstruation. It is diaphoretic (aids the skin in eliminating toxins and promotes perspiration, therefore good for fevers), stimulant (particularly stimulates circulation)and is also indicated as soothing for sore throats.

Kombucha Sorbet

7 Jun

Yesterday, I was browsing through my local health food store when I came across this:

Ginger kombucha? I can do that!

That’s right, kombucha sorbet, infused with strawberries and ginger!   It was over $6.  So, i didn’t buy it, but rather took it as a challenge.  You know what I did the second I got home:  I made my own.  My guess is that mine is much nicer.  It certainly came out a much rosier color– at some point I’ll buy a pint for comparison.

The finished product, with a garnish of mojito mint from my fire escape garden.

Once you have made kombucha, this couldn’t be easier, so long as you have the equipment:  a blender and an ice cream maker.

Here’s what I did:

Throw about 1.5 cups of strawberries, fresh or frozen, in the blender

Grate in 1 inch of peeled ginger straight into the blender.

Pour in your kombucha until the strawberries are covered

Add 2 T of maple syrup.


The ingredients

If all your ingredients are cold, especially if you used frozen strawberries, they should be ready to throw into the ice cream maker right away.  Add the cold ingredients to the ice cream maker, let it spin for about 20 minutes.   Scoop them out and eat, or put in the freezer.  Mmmmm!


Old Ways Herbal: Juliette Abigail Carr, RH (AHG)

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