Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What To Do With A Coconut

Sometime last year, my daughter convinced me to buy a coconut. We took it home and cracked it open and we drank the water. Apparently she thought it was "awesome". A year passed and I didn't give the coconut another thought. Then last week my daughter mentioned it. "Remember when we got that coconut last year...." This mention turned into an obsession as she lobbied for the purchase of another coconut. All week long she talked about THE coconut. When I sat down to make the meal plan and grocery list she made sure to remind me, like, 20 times, "DON'T FORGET THE COCONUT!" The whole way to the store and when we got to the store AND when I dropped her off at the store daycare (Yep. Our store has a daycare and my kid LOVES it.) she reminded me again and again. I assured her that I wouldn't forget the coconut. 5 minutes later, I walked right through produce and forgot to pick up a coconut. It was late and I was hurrying to finish my shopping (with my crazy toddler in the cart who insisted on standing up in the seat, singing "It's A Small World" at the top of her lungs through the aisles, and who somehow pinched her fingers between the cart and a freezer case door then screamed bloody murder through at least 2 aisles.). I was SO "done" by the time that I rounded the corner for the check out. Luckily, as I waited in line, I remembered that darn coconut! I steered the cumbersome race car shopping cart out of line and beelined for the coconuts in produce. By the time that I unloaded the groceries, it was way past bedtime and I was ready for 5 minutes of peace. So, I did what many parents would do in my situation... I used the coconut as bedtime leverage. (Do ya'll bribe your kids too?) If my daughter stayed in bed and didn't ask a million questions as I was trying to exit the room (Just one more thing mommy....), then we could crack the coconut the next day.

She lived up to her part of the bargain, so I made good on mine. After church on Sunday, we cracked open that coconut. If you've never done this before, it's not the easiest task. You're supposed to take the blunt side of a cleaver and whack it around the middle of the coconut until it finally splits open. I don't have a cleaver, so I used my Santoku knife. My husband walked in and observed as I was doing this. He looked really nervous and kept urging me to "Be careful." He finally persuaded me to hand over the knife. He successfully cracked the coconut into two halves...

and poured the water from the center of the coconut into a measuring cup. Apparently coconut water "is also marketed as a sports drink because of its high potassium and mineral content. In fact, one cup-full of coconut water contains more electrolytes than most sports drinks and more potassium than a banana.," according to Wikipedia. Also, "Coconut water is a potent detoxifying agent against some types poisons. Coconut water hydrates the body, and is used in natural oral re-hydration therapy, it also helps in preventing and relieving urinary problems, helps in breaking up kidney and bladder stones, when used along with medication. Coconut water is an antibacterial, which aids in flushing the liver, and also helps in controlling vomiting. Regularly drinking coconut water helps in boosting the metabolism, reducing stress, nervous and emotional imbalances. Coconut water is also used as an intravenous hydration fluid in some developing countries where medical saline is unavailable." Wow. I guess if I'm ever stranded on a desert island, have kidney stones, or a stomach bug, coconut water is a viable and even healthy option. : )

Of course, I didn't cure any illnesses on Sunday, I just added it to our chocolate milk. I decided to make this into a fancy treat for the kiddos, so I poured it into a couple of champagne flutes, favors from my husband's sister's wedding and handpainted by the groom's ( now my brother-in-law) aunt. Pretty, aren't they?

I drizzled chocolate syrup down the inside, for effect.

I mixed up some plain old chocolate milk and poured it in, then topped the treats with cocktail umbrellas. These were a big hit for Sunday lunch dessert!

Now that I had a whole coconut staring at me from the countertop, I couldn't just throw it out. On the same site that I found "How to crack a coconut", I also found instructions for "how to shred a coconut". I decided to go for it. Only....I didn't have the tool recommended for coconut shredding. I continued on to the "preparing a coconut for pressing milk" instructions. That seemed pretty involved. Plus, I was supposed to have left the coconut whole...only draining the water once a crack had formed, not actually splitting the whole thing. Rule breaker that I am, I decided to follow the instructions to press the coconut for milk, but rather than shred it and steep it in boiling water for milk, I would still shred it and freeze for use in a recipe on another day.

I decided to place my coconut halves face down on the baking sheet, so that it was almost like they were still together. Almost. I followed the instructions provided by Thai Food and Travel, "Place the coconut in a hot oven (400-450 degrees) for fifteen to twenty minutes. The heat from the oven loosens the flesh inside from the shell. Do not leave the coconut in the oven too long because you do not want to cook the flesh; cooked coconut meat will not yield fresh-tasting coconut milk. Cracking the shell and draining the liquid before placing in the hot oven prevent the heated coconut from exploding, an experience you want to avoid in your kitchen." I heated my oven to 425 and heated the coconut for about 20 minutes.

After roasting, I found that the coconut meat came away from the shell pretty easily when pried apart with a butter knife.

Once pulled away from the shell, the "meat" still had a thin brown coating over it.

I found that the best tool for removing this layer was my vegetable peeler.

At this point I was ready to grate my coconut. I first enlisted my Pampered Chef Rotary Grater.

I popped in a chunk of coconut and cranked away.

The grater did a pretty good job. But, as I ground away at the coconut, I decided that I was investing too much effort in this project, so I considered other options. Grating the coconut this way would have taken too long and by now I was breaking a sweat!

Before I dragged out my next kitchen implement, I took a moment to evaluate the amount of "stuff" (aka dishes that I would need to wash) I had used to process this coconut: baking sheet, paring knife (for peeling before I decided to use my veggie peeler), peeler, rotary grater, and (not pictured) Santuko knife, butter knife, and liquid measuring cup.

I dug the vegetable shredding attachment for my KitchenAid Mixer out of my pantry and hooked it up. This did work better.

In 10-15 minutes, I had shredded the coconut meat- a little over 2 cups worth. I had visions of coconut cream pie and macaroons dancing through my head...recipes for another day.

I bagged the coconut into one cup portions for my freezer.

The only complaint that I have about using the KitchenAid fine shredder is that it threw quite a few big chunks of coconuts into the bowl of finely shredded stuff. I continuously fished through the bowl of coconut, picking out these big chunks. It was here that I decided that purchasing shredded coconut from the baking aisle at the supermarket is SO worth it...no matter the cost. You know that you're getting a good chunk-free product and you don't have to spend over an hour of your Sunday afternoon cracking, roasting, peeling, grating, and picking through bowls for chunks. Sure there's no sense of accomplishment...or is there? I personally feel a sense of accomplishment every time I navigate a store successfully with two small children in tow.

As for the chunks that I picked out of my finely shredded coconut, I decided that they needed a purpose. I spread them onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, then sprinkled some chunks of pecan around. I popped them into the oven for toasting.

While the coconut and pecans toast, let me show you what I did with some leftover Easter candy last month.

We got a TON of Easter candy this year. In April, I decided that rather than let our children dig into their chocolate bunnies, I would use the enormous quantities of Easter candy for other purposes(don't worry, they weren't deprived. They ate lots and lots of sugar and chocolate in the weeks after the holiday). I kept the candy on the top shelf of our pantry and rationed it. My children are sufficiently spoiled by both sides of our families. I even helped them eat the candy and we couldn't get through all of it!

I chopped the bunnies. I used some of the Easter Candy in the Compost Cookies that I posted a while back.

And I used some in my favorite cream cheese brownies, recipe found HERE.

But I still had some chocolate left...

So I sprinkled it on the toasted coconut and pecans. I thought that it would make a really tasty ice cream topping.

The chocolate melted a bit and coated the coconut and pecans.

I haven't tried it over ice cream yet, but I can vouch for the mixture...I may have had a spoonful or two straight off the baking sheet.


SO, the next time you are tempted to buy a coconut at the supermarket...there ARE possibilities...just be prepared to roll up your sleeves and dedicate an hour or two to that hairy little orb with the 3 eyes.

Stay tuned for how I decide to use up that 2 cups of coconut in the freezer. One of these days...

Hope you're all having a wonderful week. I'll be back tomorrow with a favorite brunch recipe: Frosty Fruit Cups.


Mary | Deep South Dish said...

I think I'll have to leave all that craziness to you! Actually my local Rouse's Market sells whole coconuts already peeled but sealed up with the milk. I grated it and put it in the fridge. I might have also eaten a few pieces. :)

Ty'sMommy said...

LOL Ok, FIRST, I am so jealous that yoru store has a daycare. SECOND, those race car shopping carts are like driving buses through a corn maze! And yes, my son loves them even though he's so big he has to wedge himself in and out of them.
THIRD we're on the same page again! I actually had my hands on a coconut at the store this weekend...and stopped myself. I still remember when we conned my mother into doing this when I was a kid and how insane it was. So, no thanks, I'll pay for mine to be shredded!

Inspired by eRecipeCards said...

what a great post... shame no rum anywhere, but it is still amazing

Kim said...

Oh yes, Ohio definitely knows how to rock with the daycare in the grocery store! If my Kroger had a daycare then I would probably always be there - LOL! And, I feel you on the race car shopping carts! I can't stand those things. Luckily, our store only has 2-3 of them and they are always being used by someone else's kids.
This coconut was definitely a project. Something tells me that it must be worth it though. I bet the fresh coconut is much better than the storebought stuff.
Cute tip using up the Easter candy. I'm going to do that next year.

Megan said...

Wow, that was a lot work. I was tempted to buy a coconut at my daughters request but I'm thinking, ummm, maybe not. ;)
Great post!!! And the topping does look great!

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting. I was trying to see if it would be worth it to buy my own coconuts and make use of the whole thing. Your post was very nicely worded and as I am short on time these days, it led me to a resounding 'nope'. I really appreciate it!

Unknown said...

I really got a laugh at "my husband looked nervous" so vivid.
Thank you for the story and advice.
I didn't know all the good things coconuts provided.

Leah Dory said...

thank you ! :)

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