We Can Phickle That! Winter Is Coming Fire Tonic

Fire Cider ingredients

FIre Tonic Ingredients look pretty but they pack heat worthy of Dornish Cuisine

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 who had recently recovered from 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 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.

The tonic, all layered up

The tonic, all layered up

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.

Turmeric root

Turmeric helps fight that inflammation. It’s great at making ferments vigorous, too!

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 :-).

Fire Cider Fermented

Top-layer horseradish shelf. I cut lengthwise slices to make a great place to put my small jar weight.


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 cheapo 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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Move it to the fridge for storage.
  6. If you feel a cold coming on, mix 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! Some people feel really strongly about including apple cider vinegar. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of difference to me, so I leave it out, but you could mix some in just before drinking if you wanted to.

Sources not linked to in the body of the post:




  1. says

    I almost skipped right over this because I had a very similar version of the tonic in ACV which… stopped working after the first few colds I got. I’ll try this one out. Hopefully it works!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Kristin,

      This mix is definitely helpful for warding off colds, but I can’t promise it will prevent every cold. Here’s hoping you have a healthy winter!

  2. says

    Wow, really interesting. I make a huge batch of fire cider (very similar ingredient, but not fermented itself) and I love it this time of year. I never thought to add turmeric or holy basil, guess I’m going to have to try adding them in this year. Thanks for a great post.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Kristin,

      Cool! This does taste relatively different from the vinegar-infused kind, but it has its own charm (and no one who drinks it gets sick, which is always nice).

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Nikkisnax says

    HA! ghetto jar method… I make kim chee with this method and a handful of half gallon ball jars. Except I make it extra fancy and use beer bottles full of water as my weight. This tonic sounds awesome. I love fermented snax, and I think this may be the booster i’m looking for for the winter. have you ever added honey to this? I suppose I could add that after with the vinegar.

    • Amanda says

      Hi Nikki,

      Looks like my reply got swallowed somewhere! Sorry about that! I like your classy beer bottle method :-). I wouldn’t add honey until the time of consumption, because two undesirable things could possibly happen. The naturally antibiotic nature of honey could kill your good bacteria before they get started, or, the sugars in honey could favor yeast over bacterial fermentation, giving you fire booze instead of fire tonic. Feel free to add it at the time of consumption, though. Let me know how you like it. It can be a little rough going down, but it’s worth it when you feel able to face the day!



  4. says

    Loving your blog!! One question–I’ve never found turmeric root locally. Is it okay to use the powder in the jar from the spice aisle? I usually make the infusion and swear by it (makes a FANTASTIC Bloody Mary and is also good for warding off vampires) but your concoction sounds even more better (yes, I did just say that!)

    I can’t wait to try yours!

    • Amanda says

      Thank you so much, Anastasia, that makes my day! I usually avoid using powdered spices in my ferments because powder tends to rise to the surface, despite my best efforts, and once it’s there it’s a mold-magnet. You can definitely skip the turmeric altogether, or substitute something else. I like the flavor and color it imparts, but there are plenty of other anti-inflammatory ingredients in there already! Let me know if you add something fun!



  5. Nikki says

    What a lovely idea; there’s a cold going around my office these days. Ugh. :( I’m curious, though; I pickled many, many Hungarian hot peppers this past summer, and I really don’t want to buy non-organic Habañeros (which would be impossible to find at this time of year). Do you think using up my pickled peppers would be a suitable substitute? They’ve got quite a butt-kicking heat to them too!

  6. Simone says

    This looks interesting since it’s fermented I do kimchi which doesn’t have as much brine. But I feel the benefit of apple cider vinegar like in fire cider is for the better. I miss to see you omitting the references also to mountainroseherbs.com and Rosemary Gladstar who coined “fire cider” in the 70’s also as some other type of herbal preparations. I have also seen versions with beets which gives a nice color. The turmeric creates an nice golden color. I think it is always best to make your own instead of buying, if then really only local from a trusty resource. You don’t know how long products sit on a shelf, and when you make your own, you know what’s in there.

  7. says

    I just wanted to ask about the salt content – you say only 1 pinch of salt to make 1/2 gallon – is that really all the salt you used?
    I always use far more than that when fermenting veggies as it is partly the salt that stops them from going bad.

    • Amanda says


      So salt plays a few roles in fermentation. It provides flavor to the vegetables you’re fermenting, strengthens the pectins in the cell walls, making your vegetables crispier and slows the enzymes responsible for breaking down vegetables (aka why veggies get mushy on your counter or in your fridge if they’re not used or preserved). Salt isn’t necessary for fermentation, so as long as you’re letting this ferment for more than a few days, using minimal salt is preferred, as drinking a salty liquid is quite difficult (not to mention unpleasant). I frequently ferment this with no salt at all!

      I hope that helps!


    • Amanda says

      Indefinitely! As long as it tastes good, it is good. I try to make a batch to last all year, although we generally get through them in 6 months.

      • JenQ says

        TY! A friend told me about this fermented version of fire cider…. But I am on a fermenting group and everyone is insisting that fire cider and Master tonic are one and the same…. even when I posted this recipe…. where clearly all the ingredients are fermented in brine THEN ACV can be added if desired. I hadn’t thought of my previous recipes as “fermented” …… more of an infusion in ACV. Any idea what the differentiation between the two is benefit-wise? It seems like a TOTALLY different process. TIA!


        • Amanda says

          Hi Jen,

          The name I used here was intended to be punny (the whole Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones geekiness you see throughout the post). This is indeed a version of the Master Tonic, Fire Cider, Fire Tonic that has tons of iterations throughout the internet (and I’m sure even more in peoples’ homes). I personally prefer to ferment it because I prefer to get a dose of probiotics when warding off illness.

          Some people get a special feeling of goodness from ACV, and that’s why they choose to use that infusion instead. I have found the fermented version to be more effective for me personally (impossible to test scientifically, but it makes me feel better) and the capsaicin isn’t as dulled as it is from soaking in ACV, which I like.

          It’s really a matter of preference and probiotics. You are definitely right that the processes are not the same. One is is an infusion and the other is fermented. I never could understand why the Master Tonics/Fire Ciders kept showing up on fermentation forums when anything infused in vinegar is definitely NOT going to ferment.

          As for which is better, I really think it’s just a matter of which you prefer! I like it fermented better, so this is how I make it.

          I hope that helps!

  8. Meg says

    This is lovely. I have a half gallon jar of ACV FireCider going in the cupboard and will restock ingredients to try a batch of fermented Fire Cider. If I like it I think I will make a big batch in my crock.

  9. says

    Hi! I am from Philadelphia and I am going to make this this weekend. I have been fighting a serious prolonged sinus infection and hope this can help aid the healing process. I am wondering if you know of anywhere in Philadelphia where I can buy some fire tonic? I’d like to start using it sooner rather than later! Thanks!

    • Amanda says

      Hi Colleen,

      Unfortunately I only know one place to by it (online). It’s linked to in the recipe headnotes. No one makes a fermented version, to my knowledge. I am not an herbalist or doctor, but I tend to find that remedies like this work better for me when I take them when something is first coming on.

      I hope you feel better very soon!!

  10. Francoise Murat says

    Hi there

    I have a question – I made a apple cider vinegar fire tonic – I have used organic apple vinegar (with mother) to steep all my ingredients. I would like to ferment it in some way (lacto maybe) can I do this at this late stage by adding whey? Basically I am looking to make this a year round tonic with the added benefits of fermented goodness. Thank you for any info :)

    • Amanda says

      Hi Francoise. The answer is that I’m not sure. The addition of the apple cider vinegar may have made it too acidic for the lactic acid bacteria in your whey to do their job (aka, ferment). Depending on the type of bacteria that are in your whey, they may be more or less acid-tolerant, but I’m guessing that the ACV lowered pH a bit too much to get any good activity. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

      • Francoise Murat says

        Hi there

        No worries – I agree – my vinegar might be a tad too acidic, am going to try it out on small batch. But have already prepared your own version now, so thanks for that! Fx

  11. Noortje says


    I liked so much that this is fermented so the day I read this, I made my own. After a couple of days I suddenly see the garlic turned blue! I’d attach a picture if I could.

    Any idea why? And is it bad? Should I throw it and make a new one? :(



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