fire cider with cacao & foraged conifer

In early fall during garlic harvest and cider pressing we like to start a batch of this fragrant, warming, restorative tonic using stuff gathered as locally as possible, and the surprising addition of cacao nibs. We love to use this elixir by mixing a tablespoon into hot tea or cider, add a glug to soups and stews, use it to make a zesty shrub or drink a teaspoon or two straight up to give our immune system a kick start when we feel under the weather. Since this recipe takes a few months to infuse and cure and blend, start it as soon as possible so you have it on hand for those wintry doldrums!

And why cacao nibs? Not only do they impart a slightly creamy and cocoa-y flavor, but a study conducted at Imperial College in London found that the alkaloid theobromine in cacao acts as a cough suppressant that helps relieve irritation and inflammation. The invigorating and healing effects of cacao can be traced back to chocolate’s roots where cacao has traditionally and historically been used in ceremonial and nutritive drink preparations by the Maya, Aztec and Olmec peoples. It is not conclusive how much theobromine is extracted via vinegar, but in our experience this elixir with cacao has exhibited a lightly milky and demulcent character which we have found soothing.

Foraged aromatic herbs like conifer/pine needles and peppermint add a gentle cooling effect along with the pungent heat of the peppers, horseradish and ginger. Pine needles, resinous and brisk in flavor, also boast generous levels of Vitamin C and have been used traditionally by native peoples and herbalists to relieve congestion, amongst other inflammatory complaints.*

Ok, let’s get started, winter is coming!


We start with Mountain Rose Herbal’s basic fire cider recipe popularized by rockstar herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, with a few twists and additions:

•2 Tbsp fresh edible conifer needles like Eastern Hemlock Tsuga canadensis or Black Spruce Picea mariana, slightly crushed, in addition to or substituted for the rosemary needles

•2 Tbsp grated fresh turmeric root substituted for the powdered

•2 Tbsp cacao nibs, unsweetened and whole

•1 Tbsp fresh wild peppermint

optional 1 tsp whole peppercorns, 2 whole star anise

And a flashback to that time I met Rosemary Gladstar, as vibrant and warm and genuine and glowing as you would expect. What an honor!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This recipe is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.