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.

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