Anyone with access to a coconut, a grater, and a stove can make coconut oil. And I recommend anyone try it, it’s time consuming but really educational in that it proves once and for all why coconut oil is such a luxury and so expensive.
Ideally you’ll want fully mature coconuts, the heavy ones that don’t sound full of liquid. Open, save the liquid, remove and grate the flesh. The easiest way to do this is by using a juicer like a Champion (we have a Jack LaLarres). If you don’t have a juicer then a blender or food processor works too. We use a coconut grater from the south pacific which looks like a rising sun.
Grate the coconut. If you use a juicer it will separate the coconut cream from the meat. If you use anything else you will get a nice moist pile of shavings mixed with liquid. Mix this pile with a small amount of water, mix thoroughly and then squeeze the liquid from the flesh. I use an old pillowcase. You want to use the minimum amount of water as it will be cooked out later and will just lengthen the cooking time. Squeeze as hard as you can to get as much of that lovely milk out. Save the flesh for baking, or for curries, or for the dogs. It’s important to have helpers clean the coconut shells:
Whichever method you use, let the milk sit for several hours, preferably overnight (in the fridge is fine too). This allows the milk to separate, skim the cream from the surface and put in a pot. If you get some of the milk too it’s not a problem, you’ll just make coconut cheese. I always skip this step as I am impatient and I love coconut cheese.
Bring the cream / milk to a slow boil stirring ALL the time. Reduce to a simmer and stir. Now you will wonder why you used so much water. Stir, stir, stir.
Gradually the water will evaporate, the cream will thicken to a slushy paste like consistency and you will be bathed in coconut steam. Keep stirring. Slowly the cream will begin to separate and you will see the beginnings of the oil, it will puddle around the edges at first. Keep stirring.
More and more of the coconut cream will become oil. Curds of coconut cheese will begin to form, these will be small separate chunks, almost the same shape as cottage cheese curds but less than half the size. At some point you will notice that there’s no more oil forming and the cheese is beginning to change colour. Remove from heat, allow to cool and pour through a sieve to filter out the cheese. Store the coconut oil in a wide mouthed jar in the fridge, eat the cheese! The cheese is an excellent addition to baked potatoes, salads, actually anything savoury. It’s the closest a vegetarian could get to crispy bacon. It’s very good, the only place I’ve heard it being sold is Hawaii, but it must be available elsewhere. I do hope you make this and I do hope you enjoy it. If you do, please leave me a comment.