Saturday, June 30, 2012

Homemade Virgin Coconut Oil

Upper left, coconuts from our trees. Oil from the grated
coconut on upper right. Bottom left, we reuse the shells as
bowls, bases for planters or lampshades. The husks, lower
right, we soak in water then wrap them around our orchids.
I have been reading about all the health benefits of virgin coconut oil. I bought a bottle last year and started cooking with it. It has a higher burn temperature than olive oil. It's a bit pricey so after realizing we had so many coconuts on the property, I looked up how to do it online and decided to give it a go. Voila, we made our first batch a couple of months ago.

First you grate the coconuts, I didn't have to do this part, our handy house helper Shalla was used to doing it in her province for her family, so she cheerfully volunteered for this task.

The grater we used is a simple rounded metal bar with V shaped burrs cut into it. Our other helper Jhun then nailed it to three scrap boards so they could sit on it.  Shalla and Jhun took turns grating away. This tool is sold in almost all native markets in the Philippines. If you don't live here, you will have to improvise if you plan on doing this for yourself. Frankly, if I had to go buy the coconuts and do this, it wouldn't be worth it and would probably be cheaper to just buy at a health food aisle of your supermarket or a health food store itself should carry this by now.

You can use these same steps for making coconut milk for use in cooking or instead of milk or cream in your coffee. After squeezing out the milk, set it aside and then use immediately in the dish you want to cook. It's delicious in curries!

When vco is warm it is clear like water, but when the temperature drops, it becomes a solid white. This is completely natural, so don't freak out if this happens to your vco.

These coconut grating tips can be found in almost all native makets in the Philippines. Our helper Jhun then nailed it to
three scrap pieces of wood.
This is what the whole rig looks like. Pretty simple.

Shalla grating the coconuts into a stainless steel bowl.
About 8 coconuts made this much. I think put about 3 cups at a time in my 600 watt blender along with 1 cup water that and 1 cup of the 2nd pressing of coconut milk came out of the coconuts.

We then poured the blended coconut meat into muslin cloth. You don't have to put the stuff in a blender, but doing so allows more of the milk to be extracted since the meat becomes more pliable and easier to squeeze the milk out of. I've read that freezing the non grated part or grated meat before blending it allows even more oil to be extracted as the meat gets even softer to squeeze, but my freezer is too full of hard to get stuff so I haven't tried that yet.

We then just simply twisted and twisted until not one more drop of coconut milk would come out and dumped the dry gratings into another bowl. The plastic tub in the back is where we put the coconut milk to separate for a little more that 24 hours since it's on the cool side with the rains here. If you just want to use the coconut milk for cooking or for use in coffee instead of mild, then stop at this point and use the coconut milk in recipe you are cooking as soon as possible. Because it is not homogenized, the milk soon separates from the water. If this happens just scoop the milk out and put it in the fridge. Coconut milk spoils quickly is hot weather so its best to use the milk right away.
We put the milk in a sterilized plastic tub for 24 hours. After only an hour, since it's warm here, about 78F today, the milk has begun to separate from the whey, or coconut water and is now floating on top. After 24 hours or longer if it needed, there will be three layers. The oil will be below the scum or froth at the top. We skim that carefully and put it aside, then carefully spoon the Virgin coconut oil off the top of the water. We then heat the scum, not t boiling and leave that to set and extract even more oil from the froth. The coconut water left below, will be put in bottles to be fermented into coconut vinegar.

This is the whole tub, not quite filled yet.

This is the scrap coconut meat after pressing or squeezing the milk out.  It makes a good soil conditioner and we sometimes add it to our planters. Most of the time though, our chickens enjoy it so much we give it to them.
The chickens enjoying the squeezed out coconut gratings. This time too much of the brown inner skin was mixed up with the white coconut meat. When we get just the grated coconut meat without the inner brown hard skin, I slow roast the squeezed out gratings in a cast iron pot till it's a rich light brown and then throw in raw brown sugar till it caramalizes. We then put this on our ice cream or in a local desert called suman.
There you have it, a nice project for a rainy day!

Health benefits of virgin coconut oil are:

"The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil are attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc." From this website:

It's also good for the immune system, the heart, kidneys, digestion etc. Click on the link above, as that website has a whole list and more details of the health benefits of virgin coconut oil.

I use the oil in cooking and now take a tablespoonful a day.  I have already seen the difference in my skin from using it all over my body after a shower and on my face.

Here's another blogger who makes her own toothpaste using virgin coconut oil and other ingredients!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Walking our Talk

The front of our native cogon thatched steps and deck. The
bamboo playset for our daughter is on the right.
WeClick any photo on page to enlarge.
We are going for sustainability not out of need, but out of respect, love and concern for dear Mother Earth.  We are doing what we can to lower our carbon footprint and set an example for others to follow to preserve our planet.

We moved to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan in 2009 looking for a nice slice of land to call our own and experiment with sustainability. I like it here because I hate earthquakes and strong winds that come into the rest of the nation with the typhoons and PPC has neither.

After driving all around the vast city of Puerto Princesa and outlying areas, we settled in Luzvimnda, 33 kilometers outside of City Center on 2 hectares. It used to take us a little over 35 minutes to get to town, but they have been "fixing" the roads and bridges for the last year, and now it takes us almost an hour.
The cogon thatched roof harvested locally, which leads to our native deck. Our two Et3 electric trikes are parked under the stairs.
Recycled soda bottle
planter for herbs
Our property has no view overlooking the sea, as most people were trying to sell us. It is in fact in a dell between two hills, with no view except for the green foliage of the plants and trees that surround us. So I guess I am the farmer in the dell. Though farmer wouldn't be too acurate since we aren't really farming anything yet.  We based our purchase not on views, but on what the land already had to offer and that we could already use. Bamboo and a creek were two of the factors which helped us decide to buy this plot of land.

We do have little recycled hanging plastic gardens hanging here and there with herbs and such. The soil here is very hard clay, and we haven't gotten the composting thing down well enough to supplement or amend the soil properly yet. So little planters and bottles is what we can easily deal with for the time being.

Most of the buildings on the property are made of the bamboo from our groves, the kind of thick bamboo that is good for building huts and furniture. I've always loved bamboo and dreamed of having lots of it on my own place, and now that dream is real.

The first building we put up was a little bamboo hut for the water pump. We added a shower room so that when we came out, we could freshen up with nice clean well water before heading back to town. We also added a little porch under the eaves where we could sit and ponder our next move and had a bamboo table made from our own bamboo. That was so exciting.

The pumphouse made from our own bamboo with
Dave's electric motorbikes.
We raise our own chickens which wander freely about the property.  I just love watching chickens for some reason, and I really love the taste of free range chicken eggs and chicken. We only harvest the males for meat since all they do is chase the hens and fight among'st each other.

Puerto Princesa has a lot of electrical brownouts. It's just gotten worse as the unprecedented building of commercial properties has increased since the PPC Underground River became one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The power company was already having time supplying the residents and business in 2009 and they haven't seemed to cope with all the new power users.

To counter the brownouts, all the solar lights keep our property well lit at night and we use a diesel generator to power everything else during these frequent brownouts. Lately they have been lasting over 11 hours and yesterday, we had 4 during the day and in the middle of the night. The diesel generator has made our lives so much more comfortable.  We are aiming at replacing this with more solar panels as we can over the years.

I have a lot more photos of the property on my FaceBook Album called Home Sweet Country Living.
The first building we put up. The pumphouse. We used our own bamboo and recycled broken tiles for the shower stall and the sink area. I designed the pattern of the bamboo. I love it. This building is lit exclusively by very bright solar LED light bulbs!

Side view of the pumphouse/shower/eating deck.

We use the electric trikes to get around the village.  Dave did extensive research and development on these. We have been using them for over 2 years now and we love them.
Dave calls this his electric carabao. An electric farm trike pulling a heavy duty trailer. This rig climbs our hills and hauls heavy logs with no problem. Built for durability not speed.
Dave charges his electric motorbikes with solar panels.

The broken tiles were cheap and we used them for the shower stall in the pump house.

We have so many coconuts on our property so we have begun to make our own virgin coconut oil for cooking and I also use the oil on my body and face! We use all parts of the coconut. The meat for coconut milk for certain food dishes, we extract the oil, the husks are used as bedding for my orchids and the coconut shells we dry and reuse as lamp bases, bowls, lampshades etc.

Caretaker cottage. Handy helper Jhun has resided it with scrap bamboo from the groves with my direction. He still has to clean it up, but normally they would have burned these scraps.

Our daughter wanted a swing, slide and sand box. Dave designed this set for her using the bamboo from our groves. It's a favorite place for her and the children of our village helpers to spend a whole afternoon.

My bottle planters finally grown out and I can pinch off the leaves for my daily greens.
The reward from our chickens. Farm fresh eggs. The yolks are deep orange and the whites hold their shapes and are not runny like water, but nice and firm. Delicious too.

This part of the inside of our chicken hut. The floor is lined with a foot of rice hulls and saw dust. The rice hulls and sawdust keep the hut smelling nice  When it gets too soiled we take it all out and put the liter in our garden to improve the soil.  The chcikens lay the eggs in the baskets provided, mostly! Sometimes they find a way into the caretakers hut and lay the eggs under the bed!
Fruits from our property. Pineapple, papaya and jackfruit. Papaya can be eaten green as a vegetable, sort of tastes and looks like Chayote. The jackfruit can also be eaten as a vegetable before it ripens. It's quite starchy and rather like heart of banana. Usually cooked in coconut milk One of my favorite ways of eating jackfruit before it ripens!

A native pineapple in our yard. Small but sweet.

We harvest rain water from the metal roof of our carport and it fills this soon to be tilapia pond. Eventually we will use the water from this to experiment with aquaculture. We have two other cicstern in different locations to harvest rain for washing clothes and watering our plants.

This root was something found during the clearing of one field. When I saw it I asked our handy helper Jhun  not to trash it but to make me a jewelry tree out of it. This is what he came up with. Isn't it cool? He used a coconut shell as a base. We have a lot of coconut shells since we grate our own coconuts for the milk and reuse them in things like this.

This is the controller which powers a couple of LED solar lights.  It also has an adapter that charges our cell phones. There is a black cell phone charging at the top of the unit. We got these solar lights from the Photovoltaic Solar Centre, Door #4 Lustre Building, Rizal Avenue, 5300 Puerto Princesa City, Puerto Princesa, Philippines(048) 4346940; Mobile No. 09088937191 email =

This is one the solar LED lights that came with the power pac above.

We discovered these new LED light bulbs in town and when we installed them, they are much brighter than our electrcal  higher rated watt bulbs! We have placed them in several places. This one is above my desk and I can use it all day to light up my whole office space. The bamboo base, is of course scrap bamboo which would normally have been burned, but now our helper knows better uses than burning!! Yay!

Dave Dewbre is responsible for all the solar lights, generator and all the electric vehicles. He's so handy! Here he is with his electric sea scooters which we use to tool around the bay here in Mangingisda.

There are a lot of banana trees on our property, we use the leaves for wrapping a native desert called Suman, which is sticky rice boiled in coconut milk then steamed in the banana wrappers.