Here’s the process I used to make coconut oil.  I learned it from neighbor Inoch, who is from St. Lucias, and used to make it there.

Gather some coconuts. They weigh a lot. The ones that are brownish grey are best for oil.

First step:  Choose older coconuts whose shells have turned brown or grey for oil.

As they age, coconuts’ flesh gets thicker and richer .  The youngest coconuts have soft flesh easy to scoop out and lots of sweet water, then as they get older contain a combination of water and harder meat, and finally the oldest have little or no water and just hard meat, the best for oil.

A coconut that was harvested months ago and had been sitting by our steps had a sprout inside, a beautiful coconut-shaped mass in the middle with the texture of foam, yet sweet and crunchy.

A "sprout" inside old coconut - very rich in oil.

Close-up of coconut "sprout." Click on the picture to get a larger image showing the texture.

Second step:  Open the coconuts with a machete.  The side opposite the three “eyes” is less tough.  Cut the flesh out of as many coconuts as you can handle.  Ten coconuts makes around 2 cups of coconut oil, according to Inoch.  I had five so am hoping for one cup, however only one of them was really grey outside (the one with the sprout).

Third step: Cut the coconut meat into chunks and  blend it up with just a little hot water. You can also grate it finely with a hand grater.

Squeeze the coconut shreds through cheesecloth with two hands, like milking an udder

Fourth step:  Add a little hot water, then in batches, squeeze the grated coconut mass through a cheesecloth.  You have to really squeeze it through your fist, not just push it through.  After a good squeezing, pour a little more hot water through the coconut shreds and squeeze them all again.

At some point:  Clean up the disaster of coconut bits all over the kitchen. Next time I will do this with a helper.  Squeezing moist, shredded coconut through a mesh bag was really messy! A lot of coconut was wasted as I needed to wash my hands between tasks. It made my hands very soft though:)

I am having a LOT of trouble getting these pictures to be where I want – so I am just going to put all my text in picture captions… (even that isn’t working – argh, what about I print, cut and paste and send you all hard copies?)

Fifth Step: Pour the milk into a large glass jar to let the separation process begin. Leave it in a warm place uncovered, for 24 hours. Left: Newly poured coconut milk has not started separating yet. Right: Left-over grated coconut.

There's the jar of coconut milk settling out in the background. Apparently ambient bacteria are needed for the fermentation that helps the oil form. You can see the large tub of purchased coconut oil that I was hoping NOT to dip into on Marketless Monday when I started this; it's now Wednesday... didn't realize how long the process would take.

After sitting for 3-4 hours, the coconut oil and water are separating. Although it looks like I put a lid on it in this photo, that's just the ring of a canning jar holding down some cheesecloth to keep fruit flies out.

Refrigerate overnight. By morning, the curds are hard from being refrigerated and easy to remove.


Sixth step: In the morning, separate the hard curdled solids from the top, strain the curds and discard the water. (Taste taste - uh oh, even tangier than last night... did it go bad?!)

The chilled curds going into saucepan

Seventh step: Cook over high heat stirring constantly until it turns dark brown, like brown sugar. I made the mistake of starting off cooking on low for a few hours, and since it wasn't turning brown I called Inoch, who said no, you have to start out on high heat or it will take much longer. He said cook on high until it turns brown. He also said it's right that the curds tasted tangy. So I messed up but maybe it will work... meanwhile getting lots of precious coconut oil splattered on the stove.

...45 minutes later... Finally starting to get brown. I am really glad I chose a pot and handle that stay cool because of air holes (the pot handle is a loop, the spoon is slotted).

At 50 minutes, started to Pop. Finally getting really brown. Turning it off. Letting it cool down, then pouring through metal strainer (still pretty hot) into container. Looks like about a quarter cup... if that.The brown sugar part still tastes tangy. But the oil - what little I got - tastes very good.