This is a spicy, herby, spiced vinegar that is made and sold in spots that specialize in seafood, especially on the eastern side of Mexico. At La Nueva Viga, Mexico City’s enormous seafood market (purported to be the second largest in the world, after Tokyo’s Tsukiji), dozens of vendors sell their special bottling for folks to use in their seafood cocktails and to sprinkle on crab tostadas and the like.
If you’re taken with how beautiful these are and decide you want to give them as gifts, you’re not alone. This recipe will fit in two 500 ml bottles, but be sure to choose ones with mouths large enough to get all the solids through. Fit in all the vegetables, herbs and spices, then use a funnel to fill the bottles with the hot seasoned vinegar.
Yes, I’m totally aware that I have taken liberty with the translation of bruja. It’s “witch,” plain and simple, but I don’t like diabolical image that word connotes in English. Embroidering this vinegar with the flavors of vegetables, chiles, herbs and spices seems like an act of kitchen wizardry to me, not witchcraft.
- 1medium white or red onion, cut into ¼-inch slices
- 2medium carrots, peeled or not, cut into ¼-inch sticks about 3 inches long
- 6garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
- 3fresh jalapeño chiles, stemmed, cut into ¼-inch strips
- 7or 8 arbol chiles, stemmed OR 4 pulla chiles, stemmed, seeded, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch strips
- 5or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4or 5 bay leaves
- 1tablespoon allspice, very coarsely crushed in a mortar or with the side of a large knife
- 1tablespoon black pepper, coarsely crushed in a mortar or with the side of a large knife
- 2cups simple 5% vinegar (good-quality distilled white or apple cider vinegar are popular in Mexico)
- 2scant teaspoons salt
Place all of the ingredients except the vinegar and salt in a single liter bottle (or two 500 ml bottles). Pour the vinegar into small saucepan, then add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the salt and stir until it’s dissolved. Taste gingerly: it should taste just a little salty. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables, close the bottle(s) and let stand at room temperature for at least a couple of days for the flavors to infuse into the vinegar. The salsa bruja will be at its peak for several months.