Hate getting sick in the winter? Me too, but eating ferments definitely protects. I have been sick once in the past three years because I got to the point of just being really
Joffrey-like arrogant about my ability to avoid sickness. I thought the Wall of microbes I’d built up would protect me and that the Others (bad microbes) were mythical, where my health was concerned, so I ate and drank after a friend with pneumonia. (Brilliant!) I was really sick, and it sucked all the more because I had completely forgotten what it felt like to be sick. Not fun, is what it felt like, like growing up as a half-man with two gorgeous siblings around to attract all my father’s love. There is a non-ferment that all kindsa people believe is a true tonic and protector against sickness, and I don’t doubt it! It’s Dr. Schulze’s SuperTonic, also known around the internets as Master Tonic, Fire Cider and whole host of other names. It’s loaded with good things that each individually have health-enhancing properties, but my thought is, why not ferment it? It can’t hurt and it can help to have the addition of healthy bacteria.
The ingredients are simple, but possibly not things you would normally drink together (or drink at all, let’s be honest). If you regularly eat fermented foods, it’s unlikely that you’ll need any kind of tonic to prevent those normal winter sniffles, but it never hurts to have a little extra protection. You may even like how it tastes. Or how it burns like the fires of Drogon.
Here’s what you need:
Habaneros or other hot peppers – The beneficial element here is the capsaicin in the peppers, so you’ll want to choose a pepper that has lots. Habaneros are a great choice because they’re widely available and rich in capsaicin. Capsaicin has been proven to do all sorts of wonderful things, from protecting cells against cancer and regulating blood sugar to decreasing inflammation in the body. The more I read about inflammation, the more careful I am to include anti-inflammatory foods in my diet. Try to buy locally-grown and/or organic, since these can be irradiated when imported.
Garlic – Garlic is a proven anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. I personally can’t eat raw garlic (not because of the smell or taste; I love those! I just have a kind of intolerance reaction to raw garlic that I don’t have to cooked or fermented garlic.) and that’s the reason I actually started fermenting this tonic, to ensure that it was digestible for me. One fun tip I learned years ago in a New York Times article about garlic: you should chop the garlic and let it stay exposed to air for 15 minutes or so in order to activate enzymes that boost the healthy properties of garlic.
Ginger – I could eat ginger all day. Ginger is like a nice friend that comforts you when you’re sick, rids you of nausea and can also reduce pain and inflammation. It also tastes wonderful. Yes, it’s a tasty, tasty friend. As always when using ginger in ferments, I recommend buying local or organic (preferably both) since imported ginger is often irradiated, leaving it devoid of the good bacteria essential for fermentation.
Onion – Did you know that people who eat lots of garlic and onions have a lower incidence of cancer? These dudes contain bioflavonoids and allyl (as in allium) sulfides that help with all kinds of things, from blood detoxification, to DNA protection. Also, protection from vampires. Never underestimate that!
Turmeric – My go-to anti-inflammatory medication is found in the veggie aisle, and I call her turmeric. After years of taking NSAIDs to help with the pain, inflammation and recovery from the eventual surgery that were the result of a biking injury (please, share the road!), I’m kinda done with that. I find that a gulp of turmeric-infused beet kvass, or kombucha or turmeric root tea do the trick just as well and, to my knowledge, don’t cause liver damage.
Horseradish – Horseradish has anticarcinogenic properties, antiinflammatory properties and all that good stuff. But you know what you’ll thank it for if you’re feeling a cold coming on? The giant punch in the sinuses it provides you with! Don’t trust me? Grab a root and take a whiff .
WINTER IS COMING
Yields roughly 1/2 gallon of tonic
Inspired by the ingredients in Dr. Schulze’s SuperTonic which, to my knowledge, is not fermented.
I HIGHLY recommend wearing rubber gloves while making this. Many of these foods are abrasive or pungent and they can kick you in the webbing or cause irritation.
- A one-gallon fermentation vessel in which submersion is possible
- A weight of some kind. I used the ghetto jar method.
- 6 cups habaneros, stems/caps removed
- 5 bulbs garlic, peeled, cloves halved (if you’re just going to compost the veggies after fermentation, no need to peel the garlic. If you want to eat the veggies afterwards, peel them the fast way, linked above)
- 15 inches ginger, washed, skins on, coarsely chopped or grated
- 6 medium sized white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped (if you’re just going to compost the veggies after fermentation, no need to peel the onions)
- 2 cups of horseradish root, sliced crosswise
- 6 inches turmeric root, thoroughly washed in cold water, coarsely chopped or grated
- 2 lemons sliced, but unsqueezed (optional)
- 1 cup holy basil or other healing herb of your choice (optional)
- 8 cups of filtered water
- 1 pinch salt
- Prepare your washed veggies: grate your turmeric and ginger (I do this with my food processor grating blade for very quick work), remove the stem and calyx on your peppers and slice them in half if small, chop coarsely if larger, slice your horseradish into large, thin disks/slices (I do this with the disk attachment on my beloved Cuisinart food processor), peel your onions and cut them into chunks.
- Place turmeric, garlic and ginger in the bottom of your vessel, top with habaneros, then with onions, then holy basil and lemon slices, if using, then place the horseradish slices across the top so as to form an almost flat layer.
- Mix salt into the water and then slowly pour it over the veggie layers. Once all the veggies are submerged, it’s time for weight. With the horseradish cut the way it is, a smaller, water-filled jar works perfectly as a weight in the container I use. Cover the whole thing with a tight-weave cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature for 3 weeks. At the end of that time, strain off the liquid. You can eat the produce if you’d like (it’s pickled) or compost it.
- If you feel a cold coming on, mix a tablespoon of raw, apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of the Tonic into a glass of room temperature water and drink it down quickly. If you’re already sick, try taking a tablespoon straight. It will hurt a little, but it’s unlikely your sinuses will stay clogged. Have glass of water standing by!
- You can also add this to food and beverages if you don’t want to be boring (or tortured). This awesome, small brand (that has a very different recipe) Fire Cider has some great recipe ideas on their blog.
Sources not linked to in the body of the post: