Once the nut has been split in half you have many choices for consuming and processing the kernel. Firstly you need to get the kernel out of the shell and special tools are a big help for this.
As the kernel is attached to the inside of the cup-shaped half nut it is easily pressed onto whatever shredding device is in use.
Besides direct consumption strips of kernel, which last only two or three days in the fridge, can be given a long shelf life by deep frying. The best result comes from first freezing the strips overnight and then deep frying in any good cooking oil (coconut oil is best, though more expensive), and then deep frying on moderate heat to drive off most of the water. (Fresh kernel contains 50% water). The dry brown kernel (cocos fries), which has a lovely flavour, should be stored in a paper bag and will last in the pantry for many weeks.
Shredded kernel is a great additive on fruity desserts and in green salads.
Along with chopped up kernel strips the shreds can be fed into a compression-type juicer to generate coconut cream. Traditionally the cream is extracted simply by adding water and then squeezing the shreds wrapped in a cloth bundle.
Gentle drying of shreds on a hot plate produces white desiccated coconut, while a little more heat will deliver roasted coconut – also very flavoursome.
Partially dried shreds, when subjected to pressure, exude water-clear Virgin Coconut Oil (see www.kokonutpacific.com.au).
COCOS FRIES (Gourmet Copra) – A PROMISING NEW WAY TO PROCESS COCONUT KERNEL
(Mike Foale, Brisbane, Australia)
A new process is described for processing the kernel of the coconut in order that it may be stored in ambient conditions for convenient dietary and snack use. Deep frying of pre-frozen strips of coconut kernel has yielded a very attractive product that might gain commercial use with adequate characterisation, energetic promotion, and attractive presentation. It appears that this product could compete with other oil-bearing snacks such as peanut, cashed and pecan thereby entering a very lucrative market. Production that involves shareholding by small-holders could provide a much needed boost to income in depressed coconut communities.
In the course of the past 160 years the coconut has remained a steady staple in the diet of hundreds of millions of people in the coconut heartlands of Asia and the Pacific while gaining increasing use in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Over that same period, following the “discovery” of coconut oil by European traders in the early 19th century it has enjoyed a roller-coaster ride as a commodity in world trade. The peak of the value of coconut to industrialised populations outside of the tropics extended from the late 19th century, as supplies of whale oil turned down, until the Great Depression of the 1930s. Valiant efforts to revive demand for coconut following World War 2 were stifled but the producers of highly mechanised oil-seed crops – particularly soybean - outside the tropics. The success of carefully crafted messages about the health impact of different chemical forms of oil in depressing demand for coconut is well-known and need not be repeated here.
A relatively recent development, however, drawing on the marketing strategy of the producers of olive oil, - like coconut, another tree-based oil – is the rise of Virgin Coconut Oil in tropical and temperate markets. Although main-stream health professionals have yet to fully embrace VCO it appears to be making significant inroads into the market for health products. The fact that it is regarded almost as a medication, rather than a treat, has dampened its wider adoption beyond the generally health-conscious element in the community, although the price it commands shows that demand is strong.
In order to enter into the market for “recreational” nut foods, such as salted peanut or cashew, I have attempted to develop a derivative of the coconut kernel that is visually attractive, tasty, is nice to chew, and probably retains chemical integrity close to that of VCO. This new product, known for the time being as Cocos Fries, is the subject of this brief note.
Preserving coconut kernel
The most popular coconut product among consumers in industrialised countries is Desiccated Coconut (DC) which is an important ingredient in home-made sweet items and manufactured snack bars. The intensity of the drying of DC, which is important to its extended shelf life, diminishes the coconut flavour to some extent, so that sweetening is commonly added to enhance the taste attraction. Preservative is often used also to protect the shelf life.
By contrast the other great kernel derivative is copra which was the foundation of the trade between the coconut world and clients in temperate countries. Copra was the product of drying kernel, generally without any special attention to hygiene, while concentrating on getting the kernel to the drier as quickly as possible after splitting the nut. Quality varies a great deal depending on how rapidly the drying was done, how dry the material became (ideally 6% moisture meant a stable product) and how long the interval was between drying and delivery to the oil expeller on the other side of the world. In most supply systems the quality of the oil extracted from copra required refinement, especially for the food market.
A new approach to drying the kernel by means of deep frying is based on modified traditional practice found in some parts of Indonesia where the fried product was passed immediately to the expeller. However, this deep-fried :”copra” is very different from that dried in hot air, having an attractive additional flavour due to browning of the surface, and avoiding any significant chemical change in the oil because the process takes little more than one hour at ideal oil temperature. One major change to the traditional method of deep frying has give rise to Cocos Fries which are tasty and have an extended shelf life.
Cocos Fries – method of production
The Cocos Fries are packed in a paper bag to enable further air drying to take place. In a sealed container some moisture from within the strips makes its way to the surface and may support colonisation by microbes. The paper bag will absorb traces of oil from the Fries.
If more adventurous flavours than pure coconut are required that would be just a matter of adding a chosen spice to the frying oil.
Properties of Cocos Fries
As yet there are no scientific data to characterise the physical or chemical properties of Cocos Fries. It is likely that little chemical change has happened as the temperature would not have risen far above 100C for most of the process and the browning phase, when the oil temperature rises a little further, lasts only for a few minutes.
From the consumer’s point of view the Fries are very tasty, possessing a mixture of genuine coconut flavour with an overtone of the caramelisation that generates the golden-brown colour.
While warm, immediately after cooking, the texture of the Fries is remarkably soft, but when cool (and especially when cold) they are quite “chewy”.
As the water content is close to 5% the oil content would be around 60%, so that the fries may be regarded as a concentrated source of coconut oil.
For those who have access to fresh coconuts, generating one’s own supply of this product provides a ready source of dietary coconut oil which has a convenient shelf life even without refrigeration, of many weeks. (If the strips are not pre-frozen, however, the shelf life is only a few days as it appears that thorough drying is very hard to achieve without the texture changes provided by freezing).
Cocos Fries may well provide an alternative, in terms of enjoyment of the flavour, to other nut types that are served at parties and entertainment events where snacks are provided. The health advantage might also be pursued to promote this use.
What is the future for Cocos Fries?
In my view there appears to be commercial potential for the manufacture and export of Cocos Fries based on thorough product specification and imaginative marketing.
A private company seeking new products, or a coconut research institution, might be interested to optimise the production process, and carry out chemical analysis of the product to confirm the integrity of the oil components.
If the product shows promise through comprehensive market research in competing with other nuts in the market-place, research into packaging, and the best form of presentation would likely follow.
The process of extracting the strips from the nut would perhaps be mechanisable by deshelling, as is done in DC processing, followed by slicing of the whole kernel using a tool resembling a bread loaf slicer.
Although at first acquaintance the Cocos Fry appears little different from copra its colour, texture and flavour might provide the foundation for a new product in the snack food and health food markets.