is putting something in vinegar a safe preservation method?
I don't know how to pickle. So when I ended up with a punch of thai chilis, I didn't know what to do with all of them. I ground some of them into a paste and froze them; I dried some in the sun, and the last batch I threw in a jar and pour straight white vinegar on them (to cover).
A few months later, the dried and frozen stuff is just fantastic. The pickled ones, I'm actually scared to try. I just don't want to get sick. I did smell the vinegar and it smells really nice with a strong sense of the thai peppers. The vinegar is not cloudy and the peppers have turned to a washed out greenish color. What do you think? Can I eat the peppers or vinegar. Is what I did a safe thing to do (i.e., covering peppers with just straight vinegar)?
Totally safe. As a matter of fact in the South, and many other countries besides the US, especially Asia, people either cut vinegar with a little water, add a bit of sugar, and put in hot peppers and use as a hot vinegar sauce for foods. Or just as you did in straight vinegar. When I lived in Georgia we did this, and then used the pickled peppers in dishes, salads, and ate them straight or used in bloody mary's.
You should taste the peppers and the vinegar. If too sour add some water and sugar. Adjust slow until it gets hot you like. Also the vinegar won't be as spicy if you cut with water and the sugar helps too.
I do this all the time -- wash/dry/cut the peppers, put them in a small jar, cover with veingar and keep them in the fridge. Last for months that way.
Congratulations, you made pickled chiles, as others here have said.
Next time you might put in some salt and sugar as well, and/or blanch the chiles very briefly with hot water before putting them in vinegar+sugar+salt.
Here's how I make a big bottle of pickled chopped long green/red hot chiles that I dig into and that can last me for weeks or months, depending on how much I make and how much I eat of it (I eat a lot of it :-) ) : http://rasamalaysia.com/pickled-chilies/