This might not be the "traditional" way, but my general idea is to lower the pH with natural lactic acid fermentation instead of vinegar, because lactic acid has a much smoother taste. You have to get down below pH 4 to make it safe.
You should then not have any vinegar in the recipe, since this will inhibit the fermentation in the beginning. There might of course be some bacterica that will work anyway, but this is nothing I have been able to find out about (just as the exploding bottle thing is a mystery). The fermentation will start with bubbling after a few days from the CO2 produced by heterofermentative lactic acid bacteria (LAB), such as Leuconostoc Mesenteroides. The bubbling will help you to see that the process is okay. Then after a few more days the bubbling will stop, but the fermentation will continue from homofermentative LAB (Lactobacillus Plantarum etc), and the pH will drop more and more. After only a few weeks you will have some very good acidity.
I would suggest that you use a starter culture, since you can't count on peppers having enough lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Peppers do however contain a lot of harmful bacteria, so without a starter you can get some unhealthy results.
A good and easy starter is Korean KimChi. There are many complex recipes, a typical SIMPLE one would be:
The cabbage is soaked in 10% salt brine for 6 hours, then rinsed thoroughly, drained, cut to pieces and mixed with the other ingredients, then left to ferment. When the bubbling is peaking some of the kimchi can be taken out and used as starter. Check that the taste is acid.
For the pepper mash use about 2-3% salt by weight. This is important to select the right bacteria. A problem can be that the peppers are too low in carbohydrates. The LAB ferments only carbs, so if there is to little, you will not get any acid. One can try to add sugar or other vegetables that are rich in carbs.
Looking forward to your progress reports,
From: Kristofer Blennow, firstname.lastname@example.org
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