For centuries, people of the tropics have known the coconut to be one of the healthiest and most life-sustaining foods available. Unfortunately, due to a plethora of misinformation created by manufacturers of synthetic oils and nutrient-free juice drinks, the coconut has fallen out of favor even in those countries where it is amply found.
Such is the case in Jamaica. This summer, I was fortunate enough to visit members of my extended family that I barely new existed until a few years ago. Having cousins visit from their American cousin was a big deal and the two weeks we spent there were filled with many culinary delights.
At my request, my cousin, Jackie, showed me the traditional way that Jamaicans make coconut oil — a craft she learned from her mother, but so few younger Jamaicans are familiar with as their diet gives way to margarine and “bag juice” (essentially Kool-Aid in a bag). As expected, their health is suffering from this dramatic shift. Where not very long ago Jamaicans easily lived to the ripe old age of 100+ and vibrant until the end, now they succumb to diseases such as dementia, diabetes and cancer in their 60s, 70s and 80s. In fact, we had just missed the funeral of a 70-year old aunt a month earlier.
Typically, Jamaican coconut oil is not the organic virgin coconut oil that is finally getting it’s due in North American and European alternative health circles, but it seems to be just as effective at warding off disease and curing infections, thyroid and yeast conditions. The only issue I have with Jamaican coconut oil is that it is often made in aluminum pots since aluminum manufacturing is one of its largest industries along with tourism. (Driving the countryside in the parish of St. Elizabeth, you’ll notice very red soil. This contains bauxite, the mineral which makes aluminium.)
Here are a few photos of my cousin making Jamaican coconut oil.
First, she must tear the husk from the coconut which is deep inside.
Then, copra (dried flesh) or coconut meat (fresh flesh) must be grated.
Here, you can see the difference between the copra (left) and the fresh coconut meat (right).The copra has a slightly translucent appearance. When it is opened, there is no water left inside and it feels rather oily to the touch. This is the preferred coconut used to make coconut oil.
In this photo, you can see the coconut being boiled. As I stated above, this does not seem to destroy the beneficial properties much at all. When the water boils off, the oil rises to the top and a piece of coal (taken from the burned hardwood at the barbecue) is thrown in for a rich, roasted flavor!
For more information on the many benefits of coconut oil, consult one of the many excellent books by Bruce Fife.