Are you ready for the rainy season? After that brief, long-delayed idyll of sundress weather, it seems the dark and damp of our wet Mediterranean winter has set in. In his story "A Christmas Memory" Truman Capote called this fruitcake weather--the blustery late-autumn days when the holiday cakes were due to be mixed and baked, anointed with brandy and set on the shelf to mellow and age. If you're a fruitcake maker, or if this is the year when you're finally going to give Laurie Colwin’s infamous Black Cake a go, now's the time to start searching out your dried figs and candied orange peels, your burnt-sugar essence, rum and sweet kosher wine.
But among a certain sector of forage-minded do-it-yourselfers, this is the week to stockpile not nutmeg and sugarplums but onions and horseradish, honey and ginger. It's fire cider time, time to get prepared for winter's onslaught of colds, coughs, and flus, brought on by drafty Victorians, rainy bicycle trips, and sneezers on Muni, not to mention the petri dishes that are small children.
Last year, when all my mom friends were ankle-deep in squashed tissues and empty C-Monster bottles, with sticky glasses ringed with the dregs of tangerine Emergen-C scattered over every nightstand and tabletop, I heard about the wonders of fire cider on (where else?) Facebook.
Given that most of my friends online are a) teachers in constant contact with tiny grubby hands and small, constantly running noses; b) artists with flexible schedules, an enthusiasm for alchemical activities, and, often, day jobs at places like Rainbow Grocery; and c) writer/cooks procrastinating, er, continually browsing for interesting stuff on the Net like hungry giraffes among the treetops, it's only surprising that a recipe for fire cider didn't come my way earlier. But last year, there it was, courtesy of a post by my friend Sara Seinberg, a writer, excellent cook, Rainbow collective member, recent San Francisco marathon runner, and all-around curious and glamorous person. She'd found her recipe on The Urban Field Guide, written by herbalist-blogger Kristen Dilley.