Thursday, February 13, 2014

You put the lime in the coconut and shake it all up...

We're trying to get the hang of opening and eating fresh coconut since there is such an abundance of it completely free around here. Everywhere you walk they lay on the ground, just waiting for you. I've been doing a bit of studying on them since we're such newbs, having only bought the pre-processed stuff on the shelves until now. I did once or twice open a whole coconut in the shell but it was bought at the store and quite frankly lacked in the flavor department.

A few days ago when we went to Boca Chita with our new friend Bill, we picked up a green coconut and with his handy cockpit knife we opened it up and had a refreshing drink of coconut water. It turns out that you can eat a coconut at nearly any stage of its development, with varying results. A green coconut will have lots of clear water in it and nothing else. When you find one on the ground you shake it and if it sloshes then you have water. For these, all you need is a sharp knife to cut the top off and a straw. At this point there is no outer husk or inner shell, just a tough green outer shell filled with water.

As they begin to ripen, the green will begin to turn brown from one end to the other. At this point if you cut it open it will have milky white opaque water and some jelly-like substance. I haven't had one at this point but I'm told that the jelly is to die for.

As they mature, there is less water and more coconut on the developing shell. Once the whole outer husk is brown, there will continue to be less liquid inside and it will be thicker. The coconut meat continues to build up on the inner shell and becomes harder. Eventually the liquid will all disappear. The one we picked up to bring home was fully brown but still had sloshing when we shook it. To be honest when I looked at it all I could think of was Tom Hanks opening coconuts on the deserted island so the coconut became "Wilson". Sorry but I forgot to get a pic before we started mutilating him.

Opening the fully ripe ones is a pretty involved process for beginners. After a good bit of searching on the internet we learned that you must cut slits from one end to the other through the outer husk and peel that husk off in strips. The husk is a fibrous, woody type of material that it turns out they use in making potting soil. It was incredibly tough to get off, as Tim will tell you. I'm sure that somewhere someone invented a nifty machine that does it, but for free ones you have to work.

After you have the inner nut, the one you see in grocery stores, you poke or drill 2 holes in the end of the coconut with the three eyes and invert it onto a glass. When the liquid is all drained, use it to mix a tropical rum drink of some sort to reward yourself for getting this far and for the energy to continue. You can add coconut rum, lime, orange juice, cranberry juice or spiced rum, or any combination of those in any quantity. Take long drinks and remind yourself that this coconut was free.

Take a hammer and begin to whack the shell about a quarter of the way down from the top, hitting it hard and in a line around the circumference. Before long, the whole top section will crack off. I found that the rounded end of a ball peen hammer seemed to work best. Repeat the process a couple inches down and you will crack off a ring. You should have 3-4 sections when you're done depending on the size of the coconut. Carefully use a knife tip to pry the meat off the shell. Once you have it all removed, use a vegetable peeler to remove the hard

brown coating on the back. Keep the coconut in the fridge once you've removed it from the shell. You can peel off strips to add to fruit salad or curry, you can grate it to add to cookies, it's great slivered into ice cream with dark chocolate chips. Use your imagination, because if you have any dreams of cruising you will become very adept at cleaning and eating free coconuts.

Here is a picture of the amount of water and meat that we got from one relatively small coconut. My grandkids eat a lot of coconut due to food allergies to wheat, and I remember it wasn't cheap. Now I know why!


Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Cocoanut water with a little lime juice is refreshing and almost effervesces like a mild soda. The meat of a mature nut can be grated and squeezed to yield cocoanut cream, which is high in fat and the tropical answer to butter. To husk the nut, sharpen a strong stake and drive it into the ground. Repeatedly spear the nut on the stake and lever off pieces husk until the inner shell is free of it. Then you open a drinking nut by sharp taps around the end of the nut with the back of a machete blade or other heavy knife until (with practice) the top comes off neatly in once piece.

Jeff Michals-Brown, US Peace Corps, Samoa, 1986-88

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

By the way, the fibrous inside of the cocoanut husk was used to make a serviceable cordage.

The Retirement Wake on S/V Imagine said...

Try this, Bahamin Coconut Bread
Coconut Yeast Bread Recipe

This light and tender Bahamian bread is prepared in much the same way any loaf of white yeast bread is prepared, but it is slightly sweet in flavor, with the tantalizing hint of coconut. This is a favorite of one of my sons-in-law.

Coconut Yeast Bread

1/3 cup water
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup coconut water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 package rapid rising yeast
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg

Place the shredded coconut in a small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut water to a boil plus 1 heaping tablespoon of sugar. Pour the boiling water over the coconut and allow the two to steep together for about 5 minutes. This will yield a sweet coconut milk. Set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the sugar and yeast. Blend the ingredients together well.

Place the butter in a small bowl and place it in the microwave on low until thoroughly melted. Strain the coconut milk into bowl containing the melted butter. Test for temperature: the butter and coconut mixture should be lukewarm. (Reheat it slightly if necessary.)

Pour the butter and coconut milk mixture into the bowl containing the flour, sugar and yeast. Stir it well to blend. Add the egg to that mixture and mix again, until the egg is thoroughly incorporated.

Mix in the remaining flour slowly, adding just a small amount at a time, until the dough no longer feels sticky. Remove the dough to a floured bread board and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, adding small amounts of flour if necessary.

Place the dough in a warmed bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Grease and flour an 8"x4" loaf pan. I use a smaller loaf pan or double the recipe. Makes a bigger prettier loaf.

Punch down the bread dough to deflate it and return it to the floured bread board. Shape the dough into a loaf shape and place it into the greased and floured loaf pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Cover the loaf pan with a clean dish towel and allow it to rest in a warm spot until the loaf has doubled in size.

Place the loaf pan on a center rack in the preheated oven. Bake the bread for about 45 minutes, or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the bread to rest for 5 minutes. Invert the bread from the pan onto a wire cooling rack.

Deb said...

Yum! Can't wait to try this recipe.