Last week Dave and I were walking through the produce section and he happened to comment, “You know, I’ve never eaten fresh coconut before.”
“Yeah, seriously. I never have.”
Well, I was already debating whether or not to add one to the basket, and that sealed the deal. We purchased the coconut, and the little jungle girl in me set out to introduce my husband to the joys of this tropical delight: Coconut meat, coconut milk, and dried shredded coconut. The process takes a little time, but is really simple. It’s mostly oven time.
Here’s the drill, taken more or less from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (I essentially read the recipes, then did my own thing, so this recipe isn’t word for word! Nourishing Traditions is a great book, though, for anyone interested in improving their health and returning to traditional-style cooking. I highly recommend it.):
1. Using an ice pick, poke holes in two of the bowling ball finger hole indentations at the top of the coconut (no, that’s not their technical name, but if you’ve ever looked closely at a coconut, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The softest points on a coconut shell sorta look like tiny finger holes on a bowling ball!). A screwdriver and hammer work pretty well to get this job done, too.
2. Drain coconut water. I collected the water into a bowl, planning to drink it, but that didn’t happen. It was pretty grimy, especially after I accidentally dropped the whole coconut into bowl, so I dumped it all down the drain instead.
3. Put the coconut into 350º oven, directly onto the oven rack, until the shell cracks.
4. Carefully remove the coconut from the oven and finish cracking the shell with a hammer. When ours came out of the oven, Dave finished the job with a mini crowbar from our tool bag. The first time we use the crowbar, and it debuts as a kitchen utensil. Nice. I’m not sure that’s exactly what Dave’s dad had in mind when he gave us the tools last Christmas, but it sure got the job done.
5. Let the coconut cool, then remove the meat from the shell. I used a paring knife to cut it into slices, then dug the slices out with a fork.
6. Remove the tough dark brown layer (for me, parts of it just peeled right off and other parts needed some help with a paring knife) then cut into bite-sized pieces.
7. Put the coconut chunks into a food processor along with 1/2 cup of warm water and blend until all the chunks are gone. I used our Magic Bullet, so I had to do this step in batches. It still worked, though! Improvisation is key. Use what you’ve got…
8. Line a bowl with a clean dishtowel, dump coconut mixture into the bowl, gather up the edges of the cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can using clean hands. (Reserve the shredded coconut meat in the towel for step 9.) Ta-da! Coconut milk! Delicious! You can drink it right away or use it in a recipe. It stores in the fridge in a sealed container for a couple days, but it does separate out and would need to be warmed and mixed before drinking, I think. I’m not sure because I didn’t try… I tasted the thick cream that settled on the top and it was so silky, smooth and delicious that I just ate it all with a fork! The lower layer was rather blah, very watery.
9. Take the shredded coconut from the dishtowel, mix it with a few tablespoons of maple syrup (I used honey), spread the mixture thinly over a cake pan or cookie sheet with edges (minimizes mess!) and put in the oven at 150º for 12 hours or until dry and crunchy. Dried shredded coconut! Perfect for sprinkling onto of yogurt, smoothies, or your favorite dessert. So yummy, so easy to make!
Remember how this whole idea was to introduce Dave to real coconut? Well, I extracted a piece of the white coconut meat and handed it to my husband. “Here, try it.” He hesitated, watched me devour a piece or two, then finally agreed to try just a little bit. He popped the coconut meat into his mouth, chewed for a couple seconds, froze, rushed to the garbage can, leaned over and gagged the tropical deliciousness into the bin. “Eww!” he exclaimed after he got his bearings back and his face out of the garbage pail, “that tastes like…that tastes like…” he paused before disdainfully spitting out the horrible words. “…like COCONUT!!”
“No! Not like COCONUT! What did you expect it to taste like? Banana!?! Papaya, maybe?” I laughed.
So, readers, beware! If you try this at home there is a very good chance that your coconut may taste like coconut. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own risk ;).
Anyway, after the coconut meat was removed, I found myself with a nice little coconut shell about the size and shape of a windowsill planter. It even had drainage holes! But how to make it stand up? This little ceramic mug that my sister made in high school seemed like a good solution. Together, the coconut shell, mug, and baby spider plant make quite an attractive trio…at least for the time being! Our little kitty, The Great B’doo, has a bad habit of houseplant consumption and destruction. I give it a week. And that may be generous… Any ideas about how to protect and defend poor innocent spider plants??? 🙂