Native vinegar with fresh chillies is a sublime concoction. And with a tremendous bounty of chilli in the markets at the moment, it’s time to throw out your old stash and start anew. So simple to make and such a crowd pleaser, it is totally simple and highly economical. With chillies costing very little (except for the fancy large dark green jalapenos in the photo which were pricey), the total cost is highly dependent on the vinegar that you use. You can use regular distilled vinegar (such as Del Monte), or find some of the tastier and usually more expensive cane or palm vinegars. I don’t want to turn you off by reminding you that some of the best tasting artisanal cane and other local vinegars are actually “alive” with vinegar eels (Turbatrix aceti) which help with the fermentation process (cool, huh?). We used to put different vinegar samples under a microscope in high school and watch the eels wiggle… yum!
To make, purchase lots of fresh sili labuyo (bird’s eye chilli). Wash carefully and remove the stems. Boil a pot of water and when boiling, blanche the chillies for 15-20 seconds and drain. Place chillies inside a very clean bottle (I use recycled wine bottles) and fill with the vinegar of your choice. Let this steep for a week or so before you use it. If you let it steep longer it will get spicier. As the chilli vinegar dwindles, top it off with fresh vinegar and you can do this several times until the chillies have clearly lost their potency. I usually start over after 4-6 times with the same chillies. Other folks like to add raw garlic, chunks of raw ginger, peppercorns, etc. But I like a pure sili labuyo and cane vinegar version and as the photo suggests, I use a LOT of chilli. This vinegar pairs superbly with fried dried fish of all types, chicharon (fried pork rinds), etc.