The only thing that appears on a Tico table more frequently than Salsa Lizano is Chilera (you’ll have to ask for salt and pepper outside of tourist restaurants). Our friend Roman taught us how to make it over the course of few weeks at his coffee farm in San Francisco. This is my personal favorite recipe to make (tamales are my favorite to eat).
El Vinagre Chilera Recipe
1 bunch of bananas (15-20 lbs)
2 heaping handfuls of the hottest chili peppers you can find
6 large carrots
4 large onions
2 large yellow or orange sweet peppers
1 head of cauliflower
½ lb (250 gr.) green beans
one or two 750 ml guaro, or similar clear, glass, small neck bottles and half a dozen 300 ml small neck glass bottles.
Technically, what you pick up at the supermarket is called a hand of bananas. Bunches are the whole stalk and weigh in at 15-75 pounds. To make banana vinegar, hang the bunch in the sun with a bucket below. After a day or two, they’ll start “cooking”. Over three to five days, the peels will be reduced to black shells and the bucket will fill with sweet thin syrup.
Transfer the syrup to the glass bottles and stopper loosely (the fermentation will shatter the bottles if they are corked tightly). Stand in a cool shaded location to ferment for about a week. This is a “sour dough” type of fermentation, using whatever collection of microbes happens to have dropped into the bucket while you were collecting the banana juice. When the bubbling stops, move the bottles back into the sun for a few days to UV sterilize the contents.
Chop the vegetables so they just fit through the neck of the small bottles. Loosely pack each bottle full of hot peppers and vegetables then fill with the banana vinegar and cap. Store in a cool place for at least two weeks before using.