FOLKLORIC IMMUNITY TONIC
By Andrea Gentl
Below is my version of warming, restoring, folkloric immunity tonic. It is spicy, sweet, and sour. I first read about the concept of healthy drinking vinegars and fire cider in Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health. This more curative vinegar based tonic was a natural progression as I began to look at food as medicine. The amazing thing about a recipe like this is that it is not a recipe at all; just a set of guidelines, notes a friend might pass to you to do with it as you wish. It belongs to no one. My version has morphed and changed with time and place. The current mood it takes on is the local terroir of upstate (where I forage for anything and everything) as well as the flavors and inspirations of my travels.
The basic ingredients in this tonic are; vinegar, ginger, turmeric, garlic, horseradish, onions, lemons, chilies, and honey. I add dried sumac, rose hips, Pine and hibiscus for an extra boost of vitamin C and always extra turmeric and black pepper for anti-inflammatory properties. In my last few batches, I have been adding bee balm, fennel pollen, cranberries, and a bit of bee pollen. I sometimes mix young ginger with mature ginger. You get the idea. Once you have the base, you can really experiment. Gathering all your ingredients for this health tonic is almost as fun as drinking it. Before you start chopping and grating, take a moment to revel in what you have gathered.
You will want to make a BIG batch because once you share it with friends, they are going to be asking for more. Makes approximately two gallons. Takes 4-6 weeks to mature.
The most basic recipe is below. The add-ins are just for fun, and you shouldn't feel worried or intimidated if you can't find or don't have any or all of the add-ins.
2 cups chopped ginger root
2 cups freshly grated horseradish
2 medium sweet yellow onions chopped fine
1 medium red onion chopped fine
20 cloves plump fresh garlic chopped fine
20 1 inch nubs of fresh turmeric (finely chop), or substitute 6 tablespoons dried turmeric
4 organic lemons de-seeded, juiced, and peeled.
4 dried red chilies ( give them a little smash in the mortar and pestle to release the oils)
2 tablespoons crushed Himalayan pink sea salt
2 tablespoons crushed black pepper
24 cups of organic apple cider vinegar (192 fluid ounces)
4 cups raw honey
OPTIONAL ADD-INS( I used all of the below in my most recent batch)
4 tablespoons dried sumac powder
1 cup organic raw cranberries chopped
30 dried whole small organic rose hips
1 cup of dried organic rose petals
1 cup of organic dried hibiscus flower
½ cup buzzed dried white pine powder (dry the needles and buzz to a powder in your food processor)
6 tablespoons organic bee pollen
1 ½ tablespoons wild fennel pollen
½ cup dried bee balm
Chop ingredients, measure lemon juice, salt, and cracked pepper and any add-ins if you are using any. Add all your chopped and dry ingredients together in a large glass bowl. Add the lemon juice and Give the whole mixture a thorough stir. Divide the chopped ingredients evenly into four half-gallon Mason jars. Top each jar with 6 cups of organic apple cider vinegar. Cover the top of the jar with baking paper or cheesecloth before screwing on the metal lid. The metal will corrode if you don't. Place the jars in a darkened, room, or cool pantry for one month. Periodically turn the jars gently. After one month (or more if you want to leave it longer). Strain the liquid from the chopped and macerated roots and other bits with a fine mesh sieve. ( reserve the bits). Strain the tonic it into a large bowl or pot and give your Mason jar a quick rise. Pour the strained tonic back into a clean Mason jar. Repeat this process for all 4 jars. Add 1 cup of raw honey to each Mason jar. (add more or less to taste, stirring constantly until it dissolves). Your tonic should be spicy and sweet but not overtly sweet.
Refrigerate or keep in a cool dark pantry and decant into a smaller bottle for easy access. Take daily or when you are feeling little less than stellar.
Save the strained roots and macerated debris to be jarred and stored in a smaller jar in the fridge. You can use the chopped relish in your favorite dragon bowl or in fried rice, or even on a pork taco - SO GOOD! I substitute it for Kimchee (see Julia Turshen's Kimchee fried rice recipe in Small Victories, substitute some fire relish for the Kimchee).