Imagine this. The alarm goes off, a whiny, disagreeable sound that splits your brain in half and makes you want to puke. You're inclined to throw your phone out the window, roll over, and pretend the outside world doesn't exist. Are you hungover? Are you dying? Probably, and we all are, but more pressingly, you're sick.
Nevertheless, it's your day off, and you damn well know you can't blow this. If you don't get up and go skiing, for what higher purpose were all those mornings spent freezing your nasty bits off playing Tacoma Tetris in the resort parking lot?
You fumble for your phone to check the snow report. The artificial light is more blinding than your prospects for finding stable, long-term employment, housing, or romance in this ski town. Which isn't saying a lot, but thinking about that certainly isn't helping your headache. Squinting to discern letters on the screen, you're honestly crossing your fingers for wind-scoured bulletproof… and looksie, what do we have here? SLEEPER DUMP BAAABBY. Weather up on the mountain is as cold and dry and still as outer space. Feet, not inches, of fresh. All-time. This makes you sad—a spontaneous, sickly reflex that makes you even sadder. Now you're sure you're feverish.
The only thing worse than staying home is not staying home, and infecting the kindly neighbor who helps you dig out out your car, the dimpled kid who you accidentally sit on in the gondola, and the white-haired soul shredder into whose mouth you cough when he asks if you're okay. (VERY CLEARLY not, man.)
So, what to do? I'm glad you asked. I know of a magic potion. A so-called "master tonic,” fire cider is a traditional folk remedy beloved as a preventative cold-buster. Here, I should note that I obviously don't have any medical credentials to make reliable health claims. But, on a personal level, I fully embrace fire cider as a daily health tonic promoting immune function, general vigor, and good vibes in the bod. I think it helps to keep me kicking all winter long. Please still get health insurance and flu shots.
The badass herbal goddess Rosemary Gladstar perfected fire cider in the '70s and published it in a early-'90s cookbook. The actual ingredients may vary based on your preferences, and on what foods are readily available in any given fall, but the idea is to infuse raw apple cider vinegar (like Bragg's) with ingredients that'll make you sweat a little.
The basics are ginger, garlic, horseradish, hot peppers (choose your own variety), onion, and peppercorn. Folks seeking other superfood benefits and additional pizzazz may also mix in turmeric, cayenne, citrus zest or peels, herbs (rosemary, thyme), or cinnamon sticks.
The amounts of each ingredient are more or less up to you. Last fall, I made three jars and used, per jar, 500 ml of Bragg's, one cup of horseradish root; a small head of garlic, a small lemon; a third of one yellow onion; a tablespoon each of ginger, rosemary, turmeric, and black peppercorn; and one teaspoon of cayenne powder. I spiced each jar differently: one with habanero, one with jalapeno, and one with both. This was more than enough to get me through the ski season.
Grate or chop your ingredients. As far as I know, it doesn’t matter too much how you skin this cat. Stuff everything in a jar, filling it about three-fourths of the way, and then fill 'er up with apple cider vinegar. Pro tip: put the heavier ingredients, like chopped horseradish, on top, and that'll help make everything compact so you can cram more in.
Once your jar is sealed up, give it a solid shake and tuck it away in a dark, room-temperature place for at least four weeks. It needs this time to fully infuse. Fast forward one month. You'll want to strain out all the odds and ends. Have cheesecloth on hand to squeeze ingredients that may have absorbed vinegar, like the onions. Then, add raw honey to taste.
I like to knock back a tablespoon, straight-up, every morning during cold season. If you’re already sick, you may slurp a few tablespoons throughout the day. It's delightfully comforting when diluted with a splash of warm water. Sometimes, I mix up a weird little drink by adding warm water and miso. Some people even use it as a salad dressing. You could probably add whiskey, though I haven't tried this. (Note to self: try this.)
It's a bit gnarly, and that's how you know it works. Don't knock it till ya try it. Don't do it for me, do it for your powder day.