The groundhog did not see it’s shadow and has forecast an early spring, but we’re no fools. After this past weekend, we know there is still ample time for winter to continue to wallop us with more mounds of snow and even colder arctic freezes. I am no fan of the cold but I am a fan of our New England winters. I understand we must have cold temps.to have snow and I love the beauty and freshness of a new-fallen blanketing of white. I do have a secret spice weapon though that helps me battle the cold that is inevitable and without which I may just stay huddled in a ball in front of the fireplace. Zesty, zingy and warming, ginger is a righteous rhizome and prevalent in our home throughout the winter.
Ginger, zingiber officinale, is a flowering plant that is known best for its rhizome or root stalk, ginger root. Whether you use it fresh, candied, pickled or powdered ginger offers incredible flavor and has great warming properties. It can add a touch of heat to sweets as it’s most commonly used in our culture however it is versatile enough to lend it’s pungent flavor to savory dishes, drinks and candies. Anyone who has experienced bouts of nausea may well know that ginger can help. Simply made into a tea, a few slices of the root boiled in water can bring quick relief to settle the tummy. There are so many ways to use ginger in all its forms but one of our favorites is the winter warming tonic, Fireside Tonic.
We usually make a large batch of Fireside Tonic in the fall to carry us through the cold and flu season. However it is helpful at any time of the season. Fireside Tonic, a traditional recipe first introduced by Rosemary Gladstar, author and herbalist, is a spice and veggie infusion that benefits the immune and circulatory system. It does indeed fire you up, physically and mentally! Over the years, many variations have emerged. Ginger is an integral part of this recipe and I tend to be a little generous with it. By combining ginger and fellow potent spices in apple cider vinegar a daily tonic can be made that will warm you from within and help combat the pesky germs that can slow us down throughout the winter.
based on original recipe by Rosemary Gladstar)
*Chop: Equal parts fresh horseradish root, fresh garlic and onion and half that amount of fresh ginger root. To that add and 1/2 -1 fresh cayenne pepper or 1 tsp cayenne powder. Place all of the above in a glass quart jar and cover with apple cider vinegar (preferably Braggs, with the mother) allowing enough vinegar to cover the herbs about 1-2 inches. Allow this tonic to steep for at least 2 weeks or up to 3 months in a dark, cool environment. You do not refrigerate. The flavor will change as you go. When you are ready, strain the liquid from the jar and combine with equal parts honey or to taste. One tbsp of the tonic can be taken as a shot or mixed with water and sipped for a daily tonic. It can also be diluted and used in soups or stir-fries or as a salad dressing. The flavor will be hot, spicy and sweet but most importantly it is providing your body with a healthy dose of cold and flu fighting properties so we can enjoy all what winter has to offer.
Written by Melissa Spencer for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript