May 22, 2009

Processing the coconut meat

coconut, La Ceiba, HondurasNice thick layer of coconut meat!

After opening the coconuts and eating our fill coconut meat right out of the shell, we were left with six coconuts. El Jefe stuck the cleaned coconuts in the fridge. Not wanting to chance the cocos going bad before I got to them, I decided to shred and freeze the meat right away.

coconut, La Ceiba, HondurasOops. This is the coco that El Jefe opened and he, unlike Carlos, left the hard outer shell on it. No way was the veggie peeler going to handle that. What to do, what to do? I got out my trusty rock and smashed it down on the coco. Absolutely nothing happened.

coconut, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe said, "Wrong, wrong, wrong." He demonstrated that you smash the coconut into the rock mid-air, not vice versa. He got it open, but it was still a lot more work to get the meat out of the shell than with Carlos' method.

I'm completely coconut-ignorant. Growing up thinking that coconut comes already dried, shredded, and pre-sweetened in a handy plastic bag, what can I say? It's my deprived upbringing.

grating coconut in the Cuisinart, La Ceiba, HondurasThe last time I shredded coconut, I just chopped up the meat in the Cusinart food processor. While that was okay, I realized that the texture was much nicer on the coconut meat that El Jefe shredded by hand.

Being too 'technically advanced'
;-) (translation: 'lazy') to shred it by hand, I tried using the medium shredding blade on the Cuisinart on the first coconut. It processed the meat in no time, but the shreds were a little too large, so I ended up chopping them a bit more with a knife.

grating coconut in the Cuisinart, La Ceiba, HondurasThen I tried the small shredding blade. Just right. I shredded five coconuts in less than two minutes. (El Jefe was impressed!) The coconut meat was nice and thick and the six cocos gave me 9 cups of shredded coconut.

The whole time I was thinking about all the things I want to make with coconut. I want to try making some coconut oil, which is said to be a health wonder, but apparently it takes about 10 coconuts to make a cup of oil. Right now, I just feel too coconut-stingy to use that many cocos for oil.

I also want to make coconut milk for soup. Lots of seafood soups, and tapado (a meat stew) are made with fresh coconut milk as a base for the broth here on the north coast of Honduras. Yum. But here again, you are basically extracting the liquid (with a lot of work) and throwing away the coconut meat later − or feeding it to animals. I just don't feel coconut-rich enough for that yet.

I toasted two cups with a little sugar so that if and when cream* ever becomes available again in La Ceiba :-{ , I'll be all ready to make my toasted coconut ice cream again (which, by the way, got rave reviews from Jonna).

coconut, La Ceiba, HondurasAll the recipes that I've seen on toasting coconut call for toasting the shreds in the oven for 10-15 minutes. That MUST be for dried packaged coconut as it took almost 40 minutes (at 350° F) for the coco to change color. The moisture content of fresh coconut (60-70%) makes a big difference. Also, the oven loses heat each time that I (frequently) took the pan out to stir and turn the shreds to prevent scorching on the bottom. It turned out much prettier than last time, eh?

toasted coconut, La Ceiba, HondurasFunny, but El Jefe was pooh-poohing the toasting effort the whole time. "I don't know why you bother." "It's going to take hours." "What is that supposed to do anyway." "Blah, blah, blah." However, when he later found the toasted coconut cooling in the fridge and grabbed some to taste, he said, "Man! I could eat this whole containerful right now." Nah-nah-nananah. I told you so.

Still on my to-do list: Making coconut milk, coconut oil, macaroons, coconut shrimp, tapado, sopa de caracol, and a coconut cream pie. Since we are planning on harvesting more this weekend, I had better get on the ball with some of this cooking.

*Finally found cream again since I wrote this! I originally used to look for it in the dairy case and of course it was never there. Then I found the tetrapacks of UHT cream in another area of the store. When the tetrapacks of cream disappeared, I finally found Nestle's canned cream. When that disappeared, I was lost. Who was to know that that Anchor cream in tetrapacks was now available in the dairy case? I quit looking there years ago. They are always one step ahead of me.
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