Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ode to coconut

I LOVE coconut. Seriously. If it smells like coconut or tastes like it, I will eat it (or wear it). Sometimes both. But one thing that I have always wanted to master is making my own shredded coconut. That means successfully roasting a whole coconut. I have had many adventures with this during university (yes, I was the student roasting coconuts in my 1970s green stove while studying). So, I researched how to master this art and spent an afternoon with a coconut ready to master this skill.

How to crack open a coconut

I have done lots of research on the best way to crack open a coconut: by roasting it. To start, you need a hammer and a nail (sterilized, if possible). Take the three holes that are on one of the ends and place the bottom of the coconut down so that these holes are facing you. 

Take the nail and hammer it into these three holes. It helps if you have someone to hold the coconut while you nail into these holes. 

If your nail isn't thick enough (like ours), move it around the hole a bit to make it bigger. Drain out the coconut water into a glass and reserve for another use. If the water is sluggish, try nailing a hole in the other end of the coconut to create air circulation in the coconut.

My coconut had 1/2 cup of coconut water. I filtered it through a sieve and a cheesecloth to filter it out the pieces of shell, dirt and coconut flesh. 

For roasting, simply put the drained coconut on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the shell breaks.  

If the shell is not cracked enough, cover the coconut with tea towels and crack it open with a hammer. We also used a knife to loosen the flesh from the shell.

Fish out the coconut flesh from the shell and roast it for another 10 minutes to dry it out. 

How to make shredded coconut

After roasting the coconut and letting it cool, remove all of the loosened meat from the coconut shell. Whatever is not loose comes off with a knife. Take the back of the meat and peel with a vegetable peeler. 

I also cut the smaller pieces into very thin pieces with a sharp knife. The grater works but only if the coconut is dry.

The grated meat can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag or container. I made three variations. The first (above) was simple shredded coconut. I added 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1 cup of coconut for sugared coconut:

 (I shook the closed container to cover everything with the sugar).

The third variation that I made was roasted coconut. I spread 1 cup of sliced coconut out in a baking sheet and baked it in a 375 oven. I checked it every four minutes and removed any brown pieces with tongs (not my fingers, it was too hot). 

Some of the smaller pieces were done within 9 minutes, some took 16 minutes. But this is definitely worth it! Roasted coconut is unbelievably good!

How to use coconut water

  • Add to any Asian dishes that you are making like a Thai coconut soup, Indian butter chicken or shrimp stir-fry.
  • Add to a smoothie for a great flavor. Perhaps this will work best with smoothies made with pineapple, cherries, strawberries, chocolate, bananas, mango and kiwi. Add a little rum if you want.
  • Drink it after working out.
  • Add to 1/2 cup yogurt along with some shredded fresh coconut and trail mix for a great breakfast.
How to make coconut milk

Add the coconut water to a blender along with 1 cup of grated, roasted coconut and 1 cup evaporated milk. Blend on high until it is fully processed. Strain if necessary.

How to reuse coconut shells

  • If you are close to Hallowe’en (or a Polynesian vacation) you can create a coconut shell bikini top. Add a grass skirt and a pink scarf to tie back your hair and you have a Hallowe’en costume.
  • I found these coconut drinking glasses on the Coconut King website. It looks like they took one coconut shell, husked it and cut it open about two inches from the top with a saw, probably the end without the three holes. Then they took the smaller half and cut the top 0.5 inch off with the saw. Then the smaller part is superglued (or adhered in some other way) to the bottom of the larger half to create a drinking glass.
  • The above "drinking glass" can also be used to serve Thai coconut soup at your next dinner party, to hold homemade cloth napkins or cutlery on the table or fresh, grated coconut for adding to desserts.
  • Take a hammer and smash them up as a stress reliever whenever you need a moment. Then, throw them into the compost.
  • Smooth down the coconut shell so that there are no hairs on it and cut it into circles with a scroll saw. Drill two holes in the centre and use it as a button.
  • If you didn’t drill holes into the coconut to drain the water, consider reusing the shell for dinner party presentations of drinks, soups or dips. This may require some creative thinking as coconut shells are round and can’t stay up on their own. 
Coconut calories (all for 1/4 cup or 1 oz):
  • Dried coconut meat, roasted: 116 calories, 13g fat (12g saturated), 0mg Cholesterol, 10 mg Sodium, 12 g Carbs, 1g Protein.
  • Coconut meat, raw: 99 calories, 9g fat (8g saturated), 0mg Cholesterol, 6mg Sodium, 4g Carbs (3g Fiber, 2g Sugar), 1g Protein. 
  • Coconut water: 5 calories, 0g fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, 29mg Sodium, 1g Carbs (1g Sugar), 0g Protein.
  • Coconut meat, dried, shredded, sweetened: 140 calories, 10g fat (9g saturated), 0mg Cholesterol, 73mg Sodium, 13g Carbs (1g Fiber, 12g Sugar), 1g Protein.
  • Coconut cream, sweetened: 100 calories, 5g fat (4g saturated), 0mg Cholesterol, 10mg Sodium, 15g Carbs (14g Sugar), 0g Protein.
All of this data is from Nutrition Data. All in all, coconut is mostly fat and sugar and contains no good nutrients (unless you want to gain weight!)


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