I think I could rightly claim the title of coconut connoisseur.
Aside from being an avid gatherer of mature brown coconuts and maker of coconut cream when I lived in Hawaii, I also used to climb and trim coconut trees (with equipment, I share some of the story in this post). Aside from the fact that I have noticed that I feel better when I eat coconuts, they make me happy: the palms, the nuts, the water, and ooh, the oil!
Even though coconuts are ubiquitous and freely available in Hawaii, it was while I was living there that I really tuned in to the benefits of the oil. It is a wonderful component of smoothies and desserts and it's so good for the skin! Reputed to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, it was surely soothing on the sunburns and staph infections that most people experience at some point while living on the Big Island in the jungle.
Naturally, I've had all kinds of coconut preparations, and prepared many myself, but what makes me feel especially qualified as coconut oil connoisseur is that I made some myself in Hawaii! I just left some coconut cream (hard coconut meat run through a wheatgrass juicer: labor intensive but worth it) to stand, covered, in the warm ambient temperature for some weeks. The liquid portion fermented, yielding a delectable cheesey substance, and the oil settled on the top. It was an amazing experience to be present as the oil simply 'made itself' in response to the environment: it felt like true alchemy. The cheesy substrate and the oil itself had an earthy and yet ethereal taste: full of life, full of vigor.
This is why I was particularly excited to try Tropical Traditions' Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil, since it is produced by a fermentation process. Plant-derived oils are typically either centrifuge-extracted (spun at high speeds so that the oil is thrown off and collected) or expeller-pressed, both of which processes can generate some heat mechanically. Of course, fermentation can create some heat too, but it's the heat of living organisms doing their thing rather than of cogs spinning. It may be illogical, but I love fermentation and its products, and feel more drawn to this. (As a side note, coconut and its oil are very heat-stable, so I am not especially concerned about how absolutely low the temperatures remain for its production.)
...it does have some added sugar, that I'm less thrilled about. And although we do love to get mature coconuts for snacks and recipes, a young white coconut is an occasional splurge: they cost over $4 each! I used to be able to get them for less than a dollar in Oakland, and in Hawaii someone just had to climb for them, sometimes me.
Incidentally, that mature coconut held more than a quart of water--an amazing gift!
But for everyday eating, coconut oil is an important staple for me. Aside from the culinary and gustatory delight that it offers, I find that it helps with my digestion and general sense of wellbeing. I have thyroid problems, gut problems and yeast problems, and the 'medium-chain triglycerides' that form the bulk of coconut's fat molecules are said to be very beneficial for all of those. When I started working with my naturopath last April, he said that I needed to be 'pounding' the coconut oil, up to a half cup a day! I don't think I've ever managed to have quite that much, but since then it has definitely become an important staple of my diet. Phil often comments that my skin has become gorgeously soft and smooth since I've been eating so much of it.
So, I have all kinds of occasion to appreciate coconut oil both from the culinary and from the general wellbeing perspectives. And I was so excited to have some of this virgin coconut oil produced by 'live fermentation,' as I like to think of it. The taste is just as I hoped it would be: the epitome of coconut, with a slightly smoky note just like I remember from my fermented coconut cream's oil. There's nothing rough about this smokiness, though: it's like a really good single malt whisky.
I always have some of it in my smoothies (my number one favorite meal)
...and of course, 'bark,' (my number one favorite snack) is totally based on coconut oil!
I share several 'bark' recipes on this blog: here's a fairly compendious offering. I'm planning on submitting a bark recipe to add to Tropical Traditions' wonderfully rich and varied, kitchen tested site of recipes: