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Chaga Apple Cider For The Holidays

By Holistic Nutritionist, Fran Allen

Apple cider is a quintessential festive drink and it's surprisingly easy to make! I’ve decided to add chaga mushrooms for an extra immunity boost to protect against cold and flu season. Try making a batch for your holiday party, your house will smell amazing!

What is Chaga?
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) is a type of mushroom that grows mainly on birch trees in northern Europe, Asia, Canada, and the northeastern United States. The mushroom has a hard texture that can be dried, powdered, and used to make Chaga tea, extracts, or tinctures. Chaga has been used in traditional Chinese and folk medicine for centuries. Commonly known as the "King of Medicinal Mushrooms" chaga is the second most antioxidant-rich food in the world aside from raw cacao.

Chaga mushrooms are renowned for improving immune function. Chaga has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties making them helpful in preventing and recovering from colds and flus. They are also anti-inflammatory due to their high levels of antioxidants like Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) which help combat free radicals, preventing cellular damage and supporting cellular regeneration.

How to use them
You can easily find chunks, tinctures or powders of chaga at health food stores but not much information on how they should be prepared. This part is actually quite important! The cell walls of chaga are made of chitin, which is a hard all-natural material therefore making it indigestible without proper preparation. We must extract to release the bioactive ingredients to reap the benefits of using chaga. For this recipe we will be using hot water extraction. Simply put, it requires simmering the chaga for upwards of 1 hour. Chaga makes a great addition to slow cooking broths too.

Another easy way to use chaga is by tincture. A tincture is an alcoholic derivative of a plant, mushroom or herb. Tinctures are more effective in extracting the medicinal components and preserving them for longer periods of time.

Tinctures are also useful because they're simple to use, quickly absorbed, and easily added to my diet. I love using this Chaga tincture from Giddy Yoyo or this mushroom combo tincture from Rainbo Mushrooms and adding them to my morning coffee or just taking a dropper full when I’m feeling a cold coming on.

What about cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a commonly used spice with a ton of amazing benefits, it’s naturally anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants and great for keeping blood sugar balanced. There are also a few studies that show cinnamon also helps to improve memory and cognition.

But before you sprinkle some on your apple make sure you are using True Cinnamon! These days over 90% of cinnamon sold in grocery stores is the Cassia variety. This type of cinnamon is slightly darker, more bitter and cheaper to produce. Unfortunately it contains high amounts of coumarin. This substance is pro-inflammatory, can cause potential liver issues if used excessively and does not have as many of the benefits of true Celyon cinnamon. When purchasing cinnamon at a grocery, bulk or health food store look for Ceylon or True cinnamon in the label. My favorite brand for cinnamon is Cha’s Organics.
Chaga Apple Cider
Makes about 2 quarts

6 Apples sliced , I suggest a mix of sweet (like Red Delicious) and Tart (like Granny Smith)
1 orange, quartered
2 ceylon cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon small chaga chunks
½ tablespoon whole cloves
1 inch fresh ginger sliced
2 quarts of water (8 cups)
¼ cup maple syrup or more to taste

1. In a large stock pot, add apples, orange slices, chaga, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Cover with cold water leaving about and inch or two of room.

2. Heat the cider over high heat until it reaches a simmer. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until apples are completely soft. Mash the apples and oranges using a wooden spoon to release more of their flavours. Then cover and bring to a simmer again.

3. Allow mixture to cool and using a fine-mesh strainer or nut milk bag, carefully strain out all of the solids making sure to release all of their juices. Discard the solids and sweeten with maple syrup to taste.

4. Serve warm with optional orange slices or cinnamon sticks to garnish! This can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.


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