Marianas Variety

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    Wednesday, May 22, 2019-6:36:02A.M.






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CNMI - Special Features

The Acfalle family recipe for handmade coconut oil

RECENTLY, I spent the better half of a Saturday with Chamorro cultural practitioner Ron Acfalle.

As an influential figure in the effort to revitalize Chamorro tradition, Acfalle wears many hats: he constructed the Chamoru hut at the center of Guam’s Valley of the Latte Adventure Park; he and his family perform Chamorro dances; and, in 2013, he founded Ulitao, a Guam-based organization dedicated to building traditional Chamorro canoes and reviving Chamorro seafaring knowledge. His family has also sold hundreds of bottles of handmade coconut oil, and he was kind enough to share his methods with Marianas Variety.

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Step 1: Collect Your Coconuts

It all begins with finding the right coconuts. Look for a coconut with a brown husk and shake it to make sure there is liquid inside. Avoid any coconuts that are sprouting; they don’t produce as much oil.

Step 2: Husk Your Coconuts

Set a pickaxe into the ground so that the sharp spike digs into the earth and the flat spike sticks up. Pick up the coconut longwise with your hands at either end. On one of the coconut’s three sides, pick a spot about two-thirds toward the rounder end and push the pickaxe through so that it enters the husk but doesn’t come out the other side. Rotate the coconut so that the pickaxe tears a portion of the husk from the shell. Repeat with the next side of the coconut, and the third until the husk has been removed completely.

Step 3: Crack Open the Shells

There are a lot of ways to do this; we held the shells in our hands and hit them down the center with the dull side of a machete.

Step 4: Grate the Meat

Use a kamyo (coconut grater stool) to grate the meat out of the coconut, starting on the outside and working your way inward. Collect the grated meat in a large, flat container if possible. We had five coconuts worth, so we also had to use a bowl.

Step 5: Make the Milk

Spread out the grated coconut so that it sits evenly in a flat container. Add water until the liquid reaches the same level as the top of the grated coconut. Squeeze and knead the grated coconut until the water turns white. Then pick up handfuls of the meat and squeeze out the milk so that it travels through a strainer and into a large pot. When you’ve done this with nearly all the coconut, strain the milk that’s left in the container and squeeze whatever remaining coconut gets caught on the strainer.  Collect the squeezed coconut gratings in another flat container, spread them out evenly, and repeat the process.

Step 6: Boil ‘Til It’s Oil

While it’s common to boil the milk outside over a wood fire, in our case we chose to use a gas stove. Put the pot of milk on high heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat so that it sustains a rolling boil without foaming up. Stir every so often to avoid burning the milk on the bottom or on the sides (this part can be very time-consuming, especially when you’re making a big batch; with larger quantities, it’s normal for people to allow the milk to burn just to avoid having to stir for hours straight).

It took about an hour and a half for our oil to begin to separate from the milk, which thickened into a loose, pudding-like texture beneath the oil. This is when it is important to stir regularly to keep the solidified milk from burning on the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring until the milk has browned; it should look something like ground beef. Turn the heat off and allow everything to cool.

Step 6: Separate the Oil

Place cheesecloth or a thinly woven cotton cloth over a strainer, then place the strainer over a glass bowl. Pour the oil and solidified milk onto the cloth so that the oil drains through.

Step 7: Bottle and Apply

Once you’ve collected all your oil, store it in a sealed container (glass is best, plastic is ok) so that it lasts. As for the browned coconut — Acfalle likes to put it on his ice cream.