Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coconuts 101

Is your knowledge of coconut limited to that bag of Angel Flake coconut on the shelf of the grocery store?

Step over here and let me give you a little info on the coconut.

Everyone knows that on a deserted island you can inevitably find a coconut tree, and thus you will be able to easily slake your thirst...Not! If you saw the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks you saw a relatively accurate portrayal of opening a coconut. 'T'aint easy, Bucko.

There are a couple ways of dealing with the nut...
Fortunately, I'm in an excellent environment for a little coconut show and tell...

First- You need a nut to deal with...

Here are some fresh-off-the-tree nuts...

If you see a nice tall tree full of nuts, just look at the ground beneath... You'll probably see a nut or two on the ground, unless some other poor marooned fool has scavenged the fallen fruit...
Although this is promising, alas, it is not really a good thing. Especially if you don't have any tools. The nuts that fall off the tree are usually very mature, they have a good amount of liquid and meat, but it's hard to get to it.

These are 45 feet up... Kinda hard to get at.

Let's assume, first, that you find a nut on the ground.
First, give it a shake and listen carefully.
Hear a sloshing noise? Good.
If not, pitch it away and look for another...more on this later.

When you've found your nut, now you have to get into it.
If you have no tools, well... if can be done, but it's no fun.
You take your 'nut and bang it (repeatedly...) on the pointy end of nut against a hard surface.

After a looong time, there will be cracks up the side. Keep banging away and eventually you will be able to strip the husk off in 3 pieces.
(I didn't do this for the purposes of the program here...But I have done it before. It works. I promise. Try it yourself.)

Strip the husk from the nut... and then you have some more work to do.

But...there is a better way to remove the nut from the husk.
If... you have access to a toolshed... which I do... and the choice of basic hand tools including grinders, circular saws, hacksaws, drills, blow torches and weed whackers, your best choice of weapons is...

2 shovels.

My victim and the tools.


Put your nut on the ground...

Grounded nut.

Then take one shovel and dig the point into the nut.

It doesn't hurt the nut, I promise...

Now- Orient the second shovel so they are back to back, then dig the other shovel in to the husk as close as possible to the first shovel.

...Like so.

Now just pull the handles toward each other, using the tips to pry the husk apart.

Pry the husk apart...

Opened nut. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Depending on the age of the husk and how securely the nut is attached to the inside of the husk, you might have to perform the same maneuver again to completely separate the nut... But it should only take you about 2 minutes to completely remove the nut from the husk.

Now... Before we get to using the nut itself, let's talk about Bad Nuts.

If you have one that doesn't slosh when you shake it, it means somehow the nut inside is damaged.

This one is damaged, you can see where the liquid has leaked out of the shell.

Ooo. The dark spot. Not good.

Inside the meat of the nut has started to dissolve.

Not pretty. Don't eat.

The crabs love it though...

Just set the bad nut on the ground...

...and just after dark it's crab nirvana.

They clean it right out...

Crabs just love the coconut.

Don't come between the crab and his coconut.

Actually, they are pretty smart about coconuts. Pay attention and they could learn you a thing or two.
We'll see about that in a minute.

At this point you have to open the actual nut itself.

First, there are 3 "eyes" at one end of the shell.
They are the thinnest point in the shell. Anything sharp and pointy will penetrate it... Drill out 2 of the eyes.
Invert the nut over a container and the liquid will drain out.

The liquid is NOT coconut "milk" like you find canned in the store.
The stuff in the can is actually a mix of the coconut liquid and fat extracted from the coconut meat.
This liquid is more like water than anything else...but be aware- this liquid is a diuretic...if all you drink is this liquid, it will give you a severe case of diarrea. You've been warned.
To make your own coconut milk, drain the liquid outlined above, then crack the nut against a hard surface. Remove the white meat inside the shell. You can usually pry it out in chunks.
There is usually a brown "skin" or rind on the back of the meat. Just cut that skin off with a paring knife then shred the meat on a box grater.
Put the shredded meat and the coconut water in a bowl and let it soak for a few minutes, the put the whole mass in a double layer of cheesecloth and wring it out... A good bit of the coconut oil will be drawn out of the meat along with the water.
Use the resulting liquid as you would any commercially prepared coconut milk... Using it to cook rice is great, as is mixing it with rum in a pina colada is also acceptable.
To use the shredded meat, you can used it as it is, or you can toast it in the oven (350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until it turns a light brown).
There is a hand-written recipe in the house on Loggerhead for macaroons...

Fresh Coconut Macaroons
16oz fresh grated coconut
1 can eagle brand condensed milk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix ingredients, drop by teaspoonful on greased sheet.
bake at 350 for 8 minutes, remove at once.

Now, this is all well and good, if you have a well-stocked tool shed and a couple of shovels. But what if you don't?

Well... Remember when I said the crabs could learn you a thing or two?

Let's look on the ground near one of the coconut trees on Loggerhead.

Look- some immature coconuts are on the ground.

If you look closely you can see one end has been opened...

When the nuts are very young, they still have a reasonable amount of liquid inside them, and the hard nut has not been formed yet, and the resevoir of liquid is near the top of the young nut. At this point of their development it is quite easy to get at the liquid.
The real key is getting at the nut when it is the right size.
What you need is a small tree that is producing coconuts.

Like this one.
It has nuts in all stages of development.

You want a nut no larger than a softball.

No, not the D-Cup...

Not the C-cup either...

Ah. Perfect.

Remove the stem and the stemcaps...

Make a small hole and pour the liquid into a container.

It's not alot, the liquid is not sweet, and it has a little substance to it, but if you have nothing else, it beats drinking saltwater.

Here endeth the lesson-

Until next time...

TBG Out-


Luc said...

Thank you uncle Jay! Now to find a coconut tree...

Anonymous said...

I believe this to be the most informative and interesting thing you've written yet ... fiction notwithstanding :)

The Mighty Skunk said...

Living in one of the coconut capitals of the world, my tools of choice for the operation are a DeWalt 18V cordless drill, a Tiger saw, and a vice (where applicable).

Rinse the bit and the blade thoroughly with dishwashing liquid before commencing operations.