Saturday, May 11, 2013

Trail Snack: Dried Coconut Chunks

I love coconut in my trail mix but to be honest, the shredded kind doesn't do it for me.  It settles to the bottom of the bag and gets all crumby from the rest of the ingredients. I'd rather pick things up with my fingers than fill my palm with little tiny bits and then drop it all in my mouth...less messy. A few months ago, Chris and I were cruising Costco and we saw big bags of coconut chunks, so we grabbed a bag to see if it would be yummy for adding to trail mix.

It was!  We ate most of it in the car on the drive home. (By the way, I don't recommend this...coconut is pretty high in fibre...) A week later we went back since we were going to be camping soon and thought we'd grab another bag, but they were out.  I almost cried, I swear.  A trip to a different Costco revealed that it was a product they weren't carrying any more.  Chris suggested we try drying out own so we bought a coconut and gave it a shot.

First of all, it's a heck of a lot of work, but the results were pretty great.  One coconut did the two of us (the kids don't like it) for a 2 night trip and that was with me nibbling bits off the dehydrator tray while it was still drying.

If you're interested in trying this yourself, here's how I did it.

1. Buy a coconut or two.  Make sure they feel heavy for their size.

2. Hammer a nail into two of the "eyes" and drain out the water.  You can strain the bits out and drink it if you want...I don't like it, but Chris does.

3. Crack the coconut in half.  There are lots of websites with instructions on how to do this...I get Chris to hack at it with his big chef's knife but that's not the way you're supposed to do it.

4. Heat your oven to 375 and put the coconut halves in a casserole dish so they stand up like bowls...put a bit of water in each half and bake for 5 minutes.  This just softens the meat enough to make it easier to get out of the husk.

5. Pry out the meat in chunks.  I use a paring knife and score it, then twist.  Sometimes it pops out easily other times not so much.  It's the most frustrating part.  Be careful not to cut yourself or stab yourself in the wrist!!!

6. Your pieces will still have a thin layer of husk on them, so use your paring knife to peel the dark skin off.  By now your hands will be slippery from the coconut oil and that brown stuff is hard and sharp in spots so be careful.  Your hands will hate you by the time you are done.

7. Rinse your pieces to get all the little bits of brown off.  I threw them all into a colander and used my hand to turn them over a few times.

8. If you want your coconut sweetened, dissolve 1 tsp of sugar into 1 cup of water per coconut (so 2 tsp of sugar into 2 cups water if you do 2 coconuts) in a bowl large enough to fit your pieces.  Let it soak for half an hour then drain.

9. Put your chunks onto dehydrator trays.  You might want to use a mesh tray to keep the smaller bits from falling through.  They won't lose much in size, but when you are prying the meat out of the shell, you will get some smaller pieces.  Drying time will depend on how big your pieces are.  I kept mine under 1 inch square.  It'll be done when it's more'll be able to tell.  The inner part will have a shiny look to it if it's not done.

I don't want to state how long they'll be good for.  Mine never lasted more than a few days before they were all eaten up.  Also, raw coconut can harbour salmonella so, it's best to do them up them within a day of buying them.  To further ensure safety, you can process it in a hot water bath for 10 minutes before soaking in sugar water and drying.  Here's an excellent article on storing coconut and how to tell if your coconut has gone bad.  If there's any hint of the coconut meat yellowing, or any of the other factors mentioned in the article, don't risk it.  Salmonella poisoning is bad enough at home, in the middle of nowhere?  I don't even want to imagine.


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