Sunday, 21 September 2014

Story of a Coconut

by Lorna L. Morrison
'OH' Coconut Shell

'Coconut Faces'

Recently I had a long 'coconutty' day in the 'Experimental Kitchen'. It started with a large dry coconut that I bought at the Coronation Market, downtown Kingston.  The shell had cracked in the heat so I put it in the fridge, however the meat was not damaged or broken so the water was still intact. I decided to use it quickly before it cracked further.
Coconut Bowls
Coconut Shell Containers

Coconut Bowl with cover

To open the coconut I gave it a whack with the back of a heavy chopper and poured out the water. Alternatively you could pierce the softer of the three eyes, (the mouth in my coconut faces: see photos above) then pour out the water before chopping.
I finished breaking it into two, then used a small knife to lift the meat away from the shell. One half came out intact but the other was a little more difficult. I try to get the meat without damaging the shell as I make containers with the shell. If you're not so inspired then an easy way to break the coconut is as follows:  first, use an ice pick, knife or other sharp tool to make a hole in the softest of the three eyes of the coconut and pour out the water, drink it or store in the refrigerator. Place the coconut in a long cloth bag or wrap in a large dish cloth with available ends. Hold onto the ends of the cloth or bag closure and hit the coconut on concrete or other hard surface. (Try not to damage yourself, the house or furnishings while you're at it) :)  Do this a few times until it cracks into several manageable pieces. Use a small knife to detach the coconut from the pieces of shell. Voilá, there's your coconut to use as you wish.

Back to my rather large dry coconut. I wash the coconut pieces and allow them to drain. If you're trying to live a healthy green life then the best way to go from here would be to grate the coconut by hand rather than using an electrical food processor, but I have another reason for hand grating and it doesn't really take that long. The choice is yours if you use a manual hand grater or an electrical food processor or other equipment. The coconut that I have is not very hard as coconuts generally are so I use my new stainless steel zesting grater. It works wonderfully and before too long I have a lovely pile of soft coconut shreds.  I forgot to mention that I had peeled the brown skin from the coconut. Unlike the rest of the coconut it was pretty hard, so I decided to peel it. I don't usually do this, as it's not necessary, especially if making milk. For the purpose of making milk the coconut would be blended and strained, leaving the pulp with the brown skin behind. Natural coconuts tend to have a creamy colour. The shredded coconut in the supermarket always look artificially bleached as they have some added ingredient to keep them overly white. I stay far from those and it's not hard to make your own, so you can as well. The skin is as much a part of the whole as the inside, so use it all and get the benefit of the whole food.

For this experiment I wanted the shreds to be as soft and juicy as possible so we took the extra time to peel off the skin. (Don't throw them out!) I used a small knife but you could also use a vegetable peeler if you like. I found peeling it to be a little difficult, so it's a good thing that I don't usually do it and I don't recommend it as a necessary step.

Coconut in shell, chopped in two

Coconut removed from shell

Coconut Peel being removed 
Shredding / Grating Coconut 

Shredded Coconut

My pile of shredded/grated coconut measured about three cups. Now the fun begins.
I have come up with a new option when working with coconuts; instead of drying at this stage for dried shredded coconut or blending for milk; I've added a new step, especially if it's a moist, oily coconut. I've started to squeeze the juice out of the coconut as soon as I grate it. This provides pure unadulterated coconut cream, that is absolutely divine. You wont get a lot but it's so worth it. Now we don't have a fancy operation with any large scale equipment so we make do with what we have and it works. Do you have a potato ricer? That's what I use to squeeze the cream from the coconut. If you have a heavy duty juicer you could probably squeeze it out without even grating it, but I didn't want to squeeze out all the cream anyway.  You could also use a sturdy metal strainer to squeeze it through as well.  I fill up the stainless steel potato ricer with a few tablespoons of grated coconut and squeeze. You'll get more cream if the coconut is oilier as well as more finely grated.

Potato Ricer used to squeeze out coconut cream

Dry Coconut with layer of oil

This coconut had more liquid than the ones I squeezed before as it was softer. I was able to get a half cup of cream from the three cups of grated coconut. Depending on the coconut it might have some watery liquid, which will separate from the cream when stored in the fridge. You can either scoop the pure cream from the top or mix it up before using.

Taste and savour the rich taste of pure coconut cream. Store it in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for longer storage. The taste of store bought doesn't even come close to this heaven sent dessert. How to use  it? Have a spoonful all by itself. Not too much because it has a lot of calories as well as healthy saturated fats. One tablespoon of cream has 50 calories and 5.2 grams of fat, 4.6grams saturated. Have it with fruit, baked or non-baked desserts, use it in recipes; have it with chocolate. Chocolate Coconut Cream! Let me not start; of course I made some. That's why it turned into a coconutty and chocolatey day in the 'Experimental Kitchen'.

Coconut Cream, squeezed from grated coconut

Pure Coconut Cream to enjoy!

Okay, let's get back to the coconut at hand; chocolate is a side today! After squeezing out the cream I separated the squeezed coconut shreds into two portions; one cup to make milk and two cups to dehydrate/dry. If you need a refresher on how to make coconut milk please refer to my last blog post.

I used the nutribullet to blend one cup of coconut with one cup of water to get a fairly rich milk bearing in mind that I had squeezed out some of the cream. The usual way for home cooks to get cream is to put a container or tin of full fat coconut milk in the fridge to chill for several hours. The cream will thicken on top leaving the liquid below. My milk still had some cream left after my cream squeezing step.  Strain the milk or use a nut milk bag to squeeze it out leaving the coconut pulp behind. Of course we don't throw away this trash or coconut meal as it is called; we make coconut flour. Get the pulp as dry as you can by squeezing out as much of the liquid as possible then spread it out in a thin layer on a baking tray or other heat proof container. If you have a dehydrator use it, if you don't, dry it in your oven on the lowest possible setting. You could also dry it outside in the sun, making sure to cover it with a suitable covering that allows the heat in but keeps out dirt and insects or other unwanted pests. If you're trying not to kill all the enzymes in your food dry it on as low a temperature as possible (112-118 degrees fahrenheit). It's difficult if you don't have a dehydrator but do the best you can. Suggestions: Keep the oven door slightly ajar or remove the bottom piece from the toaster oven to lower the temperature. When the coconut meal is completely dry you may grind it as fine as possible and voilá you have coconut flour. Our plan is to make a flat bread with our homemade coconut flour. Stay tuned!

Remember, we also had two more cups of squeezed coconut shreds. This was to be dried as is. It wont be totally full fat but it will have enough oils for our plan. Once again spread out onto a baking container and dry in the same way that we dried the coconut meal. It will take longer but you'll get there and have maybe a cup or a cup and a half of shredded dried coconut for use in countless recipes.

Wasn't that great; so many things to make from one dry coconut:-
Coconut cream
Coconut milk
Coconut Meal/Flour
Dried Coconut Shreds
We went even further by making Chocolate Coconut Cream and Chocolate Milk with the addition of a few more ingredients to the Coconut Cream and the Coconut Milk respectively. We'll share those at a later date. In the meantime have a healthy green coconutty day!

Green Tip: Don't throw away the dark peel from the coconut. Put it back into the coconut being blended to make a richer, creamier milk; dehydrate or dry it and grind it up for another recipe.

Disclaimer: Please bear in my that this is my healthy green journey and some of the information shared may not be relevant for everyone. Please do your own research or check with a medical practitioner if you have a medical condition.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Coconut Campaign Update

by Lorna L. Morrison

The Sun has set on Year 2013

                                                           A HAPPY, HEALTHY GREEN 2014

Four weeks of the new year have gone. Can you believe it? I have a lot of catching up to do, not only for the new year but for the latter part of last year when I was MIA(missing in action). There's no use crying over spilt (coconut) milk so I'm dusting off and making more. You'll be glad to know that I have been doing just that, making more coconut milk and other coconutty things. Unfortunately, I have been negligent with regards to blogging about all these wonders but it's a new year once again; time to re-adjust and do things differently. The fact is I've not been a very good blogger. I probably need to go to blogging school or sign up for Computer 101. I've not done a good job of getting persons to read much less follow the blog. My posting schedule has been inconsistent; It's been three months since I posted anything. I do believe in this Blog and in the information that I wish to share, but it's no use crafting it in my head; I have to get it to you in a format and in a way that you will gladly accept. So that brings me to you. How can I make it more appealing to you? What will make you want to read what I have to say? Send me some feedback. I will try to do better on my end but I would certainly appreciate your imput. Thanks for listening. I actually wrote the blog update a few days ago and it disappeared, so it forced me to do a rewrite. I did not consciously decide to lay myself bare but that's what happened so I'll go with the rewrite and see it as an opportunity to share rather than as a chore. I attended a symposium last year and one of the speakers, Dr. Leachim Semaj basically said that if you wanted something you had to want it with purpose, not wishful thinking. Boldly put it out there;write it down;make it happen;say it into being! So, in 2014 I'm going to make things happen, starting right here. I'M TAKING MY HEALTHY GREEN BLOG TO THE NEXT LEVEL! Do you hear me shouting? I want you all on this journey. It's 2014 and I've got a new attitude.

Coconut & More Coconut

Let's get back to the coconut story:  All parts of the coconut can be used in a variety of ways; eating, drinking, craft making and more. We drink the water from jelly coconuts (young green coconuts) and eat the soft meat or jelly. We use the dry brown coconuts to make oil, milk and so much more. Last year I increased my green account by using more parts of the coconut - the brown shell of the dried coconut. As I started to make more milk with the dry coconut I ended up with quite a bit of coconut shell. After a while I came up with the idea of making bowls, tapas plates and display containers. Of course that meant trying to get the coconut out of the shell without it breaking  into lots of pieces. It's been quite a task and I'm getting used to chopping the coconut in two but the hard meat still needs to be removed from the shell (not my favourite job). I've discovered a coconut removal tool online as well as locally in one of my favourite stores, but I'm not going to rush out and get it just yet. Haste sometimes makes waste and it's pretty pricey.
I did manage to craft enough coconut containers, along with my other art & craft work to display at the Jamaica Exporters' Association's first 'Packaging Expo' last September. It was a lot of work but I'm glad I attended and maybe I'll be ahead of the game for the next staging.

The Coconut Campaign

Last year, I declared that I was on a 'Coconut Mission', a campaign to get persons to do more with jelly coconuts. Most Jamaicans drink the water from the young coconuts then throw away the shell with the jelly meat, especially if it's not soft. Hard or soft, it's a natural, healthy whole food. It's a waste to throw it away as there is so much that we could be doing with it, whether at home or commercially. We can make milk, milky drinks, smoothies, creamy ice-cream, buttery cream or creamy butter, to name a few. However, my latest obsession has been coconut jelly cream and chocolate coconut cream, made with young coconut jelly meat. To officially launch my 'Coconut Mission' on the 'Healthy Green Blog', I have a few dairy and sugar free recipes to share.

Jelly Coconuts - shaved & whole with stem handle

Jelly Coconuts with tops chopped off

Jelly Coconut with hard meat chopped in two

Part 1: Coconut Jelly Cream/Butter

Directions: (Skip #1 if you already have an open coconut)

1. Chop or cut open top of 1 or 2 young jelly coconuts
(I get mine chopped or shaved off at the market & take them home in my cooler)
Pour out the water & chop in two; drink some & save the rest for Part 2

2. Scoop the 'meat'out of the coconut halves with a large spoon
to provide 1/2 - 1 Cup of 'jelly meat'(Chop if not very soft)
Add to blender/nutribullet or other processor

Note: If it turns out to be a very mature jelly coconut with
very hard 'meat' use it to make regular coconut milk
(see brawta recipe below) 

Jelly Coconut butter & Starapple flavoured jelly cream

3. Add 1-2 TBSP cold pressed  coconut oil

4. Blend until creamy & smooth

5. Mix or blend in (optional) additions:
Pinch of sea salt/himalayan pink salt
Spice of choice eg. vanilla extract, cinnnamon

6. Pour or scoop out into container.
Use immediately or store in a closed glass container. It will keep for a week or more in the fridge.

Use as butter or spread on anything.
Mix with your morning cereal or eat with fruit.
Add to smoothies or thickies. Simply enjoy anyway you like!

Before you wash out the blender, here's Part 2.

Part 2: Coconut Jelly Cream Milk


1. Add 1/2 - 1 Cup water or coconut water to jelly cream residue left in processsor

2. Blend until milky & fully combined

3. Pour into a glass & enjoy as is or serve chilled

Jelly Milk can be enjoyed by itself or used as the milk of choice in smoothie and other recipes.
Store in a glass container in the fridge for 2 - 3 days if not using right away.

Brawta Recipe

Coconut Milk

Refreshing Glass of Coconut Milk

1. Remove hard meat from dry coconut or mature jelly coconut
Chop into small pieces & add to blender

2. Add 2 Cups purified water to 1 Cup of coconut & blend

3. Strain mixture with a fine seive or strainer

4. Save pulp for other recipes; make coconut meal/flour or blend again with less water to get more milk

Store milk in the fridge for 3 - 4 days in a glass container or freeze for longer storage in ice cube trays
or freezer safe container.

Green Tip: Make a plan when using electrical appliances like your blender, so that you can accomplish two or more jobs for the price of one without additional waste, as I did above with the two-part recipe that did not require washing the blender in between uses.