Drying/Dehydrating coconut

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Coconuts when stored in their husk last for a long time, even after their water has dried out. A dried out coconut is called a gontu tarai (Tarai = coconut) in Tulu. A coconut in Kannada is called tenginakaai. However, from a bug out or survival point of view, you might suddenly find yourself in possession of more coconut than you might be able to use, or as a single person find your grated coconut going rancid pretty fast. Even if it frozen, it does lose part of its taste. Sometimes you might also need dried coconut for a particular recipe. As kids when we went home for summer vacations, we would land back in Bombay (Now Mumbai) with a few sacks of coconuts given to mum by her parents. This would last us quite a while, after which we would have to start buying from the local shops which would be relatively more expensive. The disadvantage in this was that, it was a heavy burden to carry. On the contrary when it was my turn to carry coconut home to Delhi, mum desiccated/dried it for me which properly stored lasted me more than 2 years! Dehydrating foods is a wonderful way to preserve extra garden produce or foods bought in season when they are cheaper.

Coconut can be dried in two ways -either grated and dried or shelled and dried in the sun. In its latter avatar it is commonly available in shops as copra. If we need to send it to the mill for extracting oil, we send them copra (nungel tarai in Tulu). In its former form, it is very easy to use for cooking.

Toasting coconut on a griddle at the end of the first day of drying due to insufficient sunlight during the day

Toasting coconut on a griddle at the end of the first day of drying due to insufficient sunlight during the day

A very important note here. The first day of drying requires a full day of strong sunlight as the coconut is very moist. If the day is cloudy or sunlight is not strong enough, the coconut could go rancid. A workaround if you get stuck with suddenly changing sunshine is to toast it lightly on a griddle to evaporate excess water at the end of the first day. I don’t like this as it partially cooks the coconut, but it does save your batch of coconut!

The second important thing is to  spread out the coconut for drying only after the sun comes out in strength and move it inside the house immediately after the sun loses its intensity around 4 pm. This is of greater importance in the first few days of drying when there is still a large amount of water in the coconut meat.

Thirdly, make sure you keep it away from rodents, birds and anything else which might find it interesting. Don’t trust carnivores either. I had a cat who loved grated coconut and cooked cabbage (probably because we add quite a lot of grated coconut to it) as much as he loved fish!

Dehusk, and shell the coconuts

De-husk, and break open the coconuts

Place them in a sunny location to dry

Put them in a sunny location to dry

Once they dry a bit, they can be pried out from their shells. Note the black mold that has appeared on the coconut. Just wipe it off with a cloth.

Once they dry a bit, they can be pried out from their shells. Note the black mold that has appeared on the coconut. Just wipe it off with a cloth.

Keep drying them till they are properly dried. When properly dried, it can be broken to pieces and on eating it, you can feel oil oozing out of it.  When you are satisfied, you may store them in a sealed container after they cool down.

Keep drying them till they are properly dried. When properly dried, it can be broken to pieces and on eating it, you can feel oil oozing out of it. When you are satisfied, you may store them in a sealed container after they cool down or send them to the mill if your purpose was to obtain coconut oil.

 

In case you wanted dried grated or desiccated coconut…

Remember the same guidelines in blue at the middle of the post apply!

 

Grate the coconut using the traditional peradhane available in the Udupi - Mangalore region or grate it with a fine grater.

Grate the coconut using the traditional peradhane available in the Udupi – Mangalore region or grate it with a fine grater

Here's my mother spreading it out evenly on a cloth

Here’s my mum spreading it out evenly on a cloth. You may need to gently stir it about a few times on the first day

The roof is a good place to spread it out without being disturbed by playing kids or animals which may walk across it.

The roof is a good place to spread it out without being disturbed by playing kids or animals which may walk across it.

 

When the grated/desiccated coconut is dry, it should crumble to a powder when crushed between two fingers and should leave a spot of oil between your fingers. On the last day, allow it to cool and bottle immediately :-)

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CREDITS: | Manorama Soans |

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