Made in Cayman: Coconut vinegar

Elder Caucasian man with white hair sitting outside on a bench wearing a yellow shirt smiles at the camera.

In the 15 years Martin Richter spent as the general manager of Grand Old House, he did everything he could to ensure the wine served to guests wasn't vinegar. Now, in his position as the owner of Cayman Burning Kisses, he's happy to serve vinegar to his customers any day of the week.

Cayman Burning Kisses produces a variety of food products including coconut water, hot sauces, yoghurt and vinegars made from local fruits.

"I spent so many years in the restaurant business, but I always wanted to get into production," says Richter, adding that he dabbled in making wine during his time at Grand Old House.

Richter has long been a champion of using local products and was the founder of Slow Food South Sound in the Cayman Islands in 1996 and led the chapter until 2008. The Italy-based culinary organisation advocates the usage of locally produced, sustainable ingredients whenever possible.

Although it's difficult to grow the best grapes for wine production in Cayman's climate, the fruits that grow here can make excellent vinegars, something that no one else was doing locally on a commercial basis until Richter came along.

Capitalising on the popularity of coconuts for their health benefits, Richter began producing coconut vinegar about five years ago.

"I started experimenting and I'll admit, I had some failures," he says.

Eventually, however, Richter found a method that created vinegars that were not only good enough to sell, but also good enough for local restaurant chefs to use.

"Thomas [Tennant] from Tomfoodery Kitchen is using some of my vinegar for his salad dressings," he says.

Since perfecting his method of making coconut vinegar, he has created a product line that also includes vinegars made from sugar cane, guineps, mangoes, guavas, avocados and other local fruits.

Customers use the vinegars in different ways, Richter says.

"I would say about half of the people who buy the coconut vinegar just drink it for health reasons," he says, adding that many of these customers have started using coconut vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar. "It's good with soda water."

Depending on the fruit used to make the vinegars, other uses include salad dressings and various cooking applications that make use of their sweet-yet-tart flavour profiles.

"Guineps vinegar is excellent for marinating meats and chicken," Richter says.

Bartenders are also using some of his vinegars in their crafted cocktails, similarly to the way they'd use a shrub or kombucha, Richter says.

On Saturdays, Richter can be found at the Hamlin Stephenson Farmers' Market in George Town, selling many of his products, including soups and baked goods.

In Camana Bay, Foster's sells several flavours of Cayman Burning Kisses vinegars including coconut, cane and guineps.

"Foster's has been a great supporter," Richter says. "They want to have local products to add diversity."

This article was originally featured in the September 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

Caucasian man with salt and pepper hair wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a blue button-down shirt smiles at the camera.

About the author

Alan Markoff has worked with Dart as the editor for Camana Bay Times for four years and has been writing professionally since 1997. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in English, and first moved to the Cayman Islands in 1982. He has 17 years of experience in the real estate industry and previously worked as a journalist for the Cayman Compass before joining Dart to relaunch the Camana Bay Times monthly newspaper. Alan is passionate about food and wine and he loves to write about both those subjects. He is also the leader of Grand Cayman’s Slow Food Chapter. One of Alan’s favourite ways to relax is to catch a film at Camana Bay Cinema. It was at one of these movies that he met his wife, Lynn!

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