Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Adventures with Elvis, Part I: Cookoo for Coconuts

George has befriended a "tico" named Elvis. Elvis is great! He lived in New Jersey with his wife and children for 9 years, so his English is great. He has taught us a lot about the ways of Costa Rica. He and George make good comrades because they are both very social and adventurous. Having Elvis around has eliminated most of George's pacing, and his regular need to be a "wild-man" has been fulfilled for the moment. Our first adventure with Elvis was in the comfort of our back-yard and kitchen, where he taught us to make coconut oil.

When George first met Elvis, he was peddling his wares: Costa Rica key-chains and coconut oil. We really enjoy local food, so we bought some of his coconut oil, which will cure anything that ails you, according to Elvis. We quickly became fans of his coconut oil, frying plantains in it, drizzling it over chicken and rice, burritos, etc. We showed so much interest that Elvis volunteered to show us how to make the magical oil.

We sequestered ten ripe coconuts from our neighbors tree (which regularly fall to the ground, never to be used by them), and started the lengthy process of making coconut oil.

First, George and Elvis had to make a tool for grating the coconut flesh. So, using a file and a piece of scrap-metal from an old machete, they put their tico and hillbilly ingenuity to work and created two coconut rayadores.

Next, Elvis demonstrated how to remove the coconut husk . . .

Then he showed us how to hack open the shell with our kitchen knife / machete.

Here he's collecting the agua de coco for drinking.

And the beautiful white, oily flesh is exposed.

Next, you have to start grating the flesh, like so.

Here, we're getting into the groove of coconut grating.

Adalaya grated a coconut too!

It's tiring work! Elvis says he can do about 100 coconuts per day, but we were plenty happy just processing 10!

Next we soaked the grated coconut in water, then squeezed it out the milk through a handkerchief. This was repeated two more times for a total of 4 gallons of coconut milk, which is also very yummy in it's own right. At this point I wanted to take a bath in the milk, it was so lovely and creamy!

We let the coconut cream rise to the top over a period of several hours, then proceeded to skim off the cream and cook it down.

The cream separates into coconut curds and oil, and the whole kitchen smells rich and delicious.

At the end of the process, we made about 16 oz of oil from the 10 coconuts. Cooking with the oil adds a delicious new tropical flare to many of our old standby meals. I've also started using the oil on my skin after bathing. I think I must have been coconut deprived!

Elvis is currently taking orders for coconut oil if anyone wants to try this magical panacea! Here's bottles of different batches currently in our kitchen.

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