Food and Ferments Fireside Tonic

A winter cure for what ails you

Written by Leah Stacy, photo by Jason Koski

From their production facilities in Cortland and Truxton, Dave and Carly Dougherty of Food & Ferments create everything from sauerkraut to kimchi to kombucha. Their Fireside Tonic, an organic apple cider vinegar infused with raw honey, garlic, spicy peppers and other immune-strengthening ingredients is a based on an old-ways recipe that can help knock out the common cold. We caught up with co-owner Carly to learn more about this unusual product that comes with a kick.

Edible Finger Lakes: The Fireside Tonic seems like a good fit for winter in the Finger Lakes. What can you tell us about it?

Carly Dougherty: Oh yeah, sales for the tonic take off around this time of year. We didn’t really invent it, though; it’s more like we borrowed the concept from herbalists who’ve been making it for decades. It’s called Fire Cider in most cases, but that name was trademarked for a while, so we named ours Fireside Tonic. It’s a forgiving recipe, so you can play with a lot of different ingredients. Since then, it’s taken off for us.

EFLX: But since it’s apple cider vinegar you can’t chug it, right? What are some of the ways people use it?

CD: It’s a versatile product, great for cold and flu season as well as hay fever and allergies. We know one farmer who says it’s the only thing that helps clear his sinuses; he buys it in large quantities. This time of year, I love it in hot tea. It steams up and you get that sinus relief. But shooting it straight, I’ve noticed, will soothe a sore throat.

EFLX: What about if you aren’t nursing a cold. What would you recommend?

CD: In the summer, I like to throw it in olive oil over fresh sweet corn and tomatoes. So there’s this great medicinal but also culinary quality to it.

EFLX: Which farms do you source from, and what produce?

CD: We primarily work with Plowbreak Farm in Burdett, Shared Roots Farm in McGraw, Main Street Farms in Cortland, Stick and Stone Farm in Ithaca, Chicory Creek Farm in Oneonta. We source beets, cabbage, garlic, hot peppers (for the Fireside Tonic), and cucumbers for pickles.

EFLX: Yeah, let’s talk about those hot peppers. This is one spicy tonic. What peppers do you use and how did you figure out the perfect amount of heat to be medicinal and tasty?

CD: It’s a moving target every year; the peppers we get vary in spice and heat depending on the growing season. We use a mix of jalapeños, habanero and cayenne and that helps us get the flavors we want. Often we soak the peppers in another apple cider vinegar and then blend that into the main batch. That way we can turn the heat up or down. But yeah, it’s hot stuff. We all wear goggles and respirators when we make it. It’s a pretty intense process!


This article originally appeared in the January-February 2020 Issue of the magazine.

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