I was unfortunate enough to be completely turned off the idea of using coconut oil a fair few years ago. My parents have always been healthy people, in-particular, my Dad. So my Dad decided, along with the advice of his naturopath, to start using coconut oil. When he cooked with it, all I can remember is this horrible rancid smell that felt oily in the air and clung to my hair and clothes. Naturally I decided that cooking with this type of oil was not for me.
Since then however, I have had info. coming from left, right and centre about coconut oil’s amazing health benefits etc. This includes my new favourite, Sarah Wilson. She is a lover of all things coconut and in particular coconut oil.
By chance, through my travels to other people’s kitchens, my cousin had a jar of coconut oil on the bench. It didn’t look like my dad’s bottle – a plastic bottle with a dark yellow oily substance within. It was this beautiful crystal white colour and not runny but firm. So naturally out of curiosity what did I do? I opened it and took a big whif…MAGIC…it was like a bottle of sweet lamington yumminess and all I wanted to do was eat it, so I did. And it was sooooo good. Immediately converted!!!
So what was the difference? I had to find out, so I went home that night and I did some research. Here is what I found. I hope it clears a few things up for you as it did for me. I think it is really important for people to know the difference between the types of coconut oils out there on the market.
Below is a description of Copra (or Coconut Oil) I found through my research.
“Fiji was not only raised on coconut and coconut oil as part of daily life but also cut copra to make a living on his small impoverished island. Copra or dried coconut flesh is what is made into basic COCONUT OIL. It is a completely different form of oil compared to Virgin or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil now on the market.
When copra is cut, first coconuts that have fallen on the ground are gathered and cut in half to remove the white coconut meat. The coconut meat is then usually dried on a rack over a fire (they call them copra smokers), which helps to dry out the coconut meat, and it turns a grey colour and has a rancid smell. The biggest and most abundant amounts of wild coconuts are found in remote villages scattered across the Pacific and Asia. Sometimes it can take up to 3-4 months before the villagers can get their bags of smoked copra to the big copra mills in town. The mills are usually situated 100’s of miles away from these villagers. The copra mills resemble a smaller version of a sugar crushing mill and processing of the copra is similar to that found in the sugar mills. The copra is pressed and because the coconut is very smoky or rancid they use chemicals to bleach and clean the oil. This happens in all the basic edible food oils today in the market place. This is also the reason why this style of COCONUT OIL (Copra) processing became known in the old days as poor man’s oil or dirty oil.”
And this would be the type of oil my Dad was using (hence the smell, YUK!), thinking and being told by the market place, that it was natural and wholesome oil.
“But for people in the villages in Fiji, they only used freshly processed coconut oil and the premium or special oils that their grandmother’s made from freshly squeezed coconuts were put aside and bottled for the special ceremonies in the village. Today this special oil is known as Extra or Virgin Coconut Oil and any comparisons to the processing of olive oil should not be used. The term for Extra Virgin Coconut Oil in the Coconut oil industry today means that this form of coconut oil processing is the most unrefined and most natural form and no artificial filtering or expeller pressing (centrifuge spinning -also known as oil polishing) is used. The oil remains in its most natural form and retains a rich smell and sweet taste of coconut.
Good quality Extra Virgin or Virgin Coconut Oil should taste and smell like coconut. It should be a very fine oil and will quickly melt in the palm of your hand with body heat. If it does not solidify or melt quickly you know it is a much thicker and inferior oil. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil should be in a natural form and gravity or natural filtering of the oil is used. This type of Virgin Coconut Oil will still retain a level of fine coconut particles and usually a very high level of lauric acid. This type or premium VCO should not contain any microbe activity or foreign matter. If wild forest coconuts are used and are very mature trees they retain a very high lauric acid level and the oil can retain a slight golden colour.
Today because of the high demand for Virgin Coconut Oil many unscrupulous manufacturers are getting cheap copra oils and running them through centrifuge spinning machines to clean up the oils and also state they are ORGANIC. While the centrifuges remove the smell and all flavour from the oils the Copra COCONUT OIL is a much thicker oil that will NOT quickly absorb into the skin and does contain TRANS FAT. Accept for a higher level of lauric acid it is very similar to all other trans fat food oils on the market due to the processing. If you put this type of oil on your skin it is just that OIL and will clog the pores of your skin.
While some of the Virgin Coconut Oils currently on the market are crystal clear in appearance they usually are made from the soft immature coconut flesh before the nut hardens. This type of coconut processing usually makes it easy to remove the coconut flesh and extract the oil with fermentation or boiling off the liquid. Because the coconut is not as mature it usually has lower lauric acid levels and the smell and flavour of the oil is not as strong. It must be remembered that all coconuts when opened will quickly ferment and unless the moisture is removed properly during processing the oil will sour. Good quality Virgin Coconut Oils should have a shelf life of at lease 2 years without any deteriorate of the oil at all. When cooking with Virgin Coconut Oil the oil will fry at very high temperatures. Good quality Virgin Coconut Oil can be mixed in both hot and cold drinks.”
So it is safe to say that the Virgin Coconut Oil my cousin was using was the really good quality stuff that you should be using. I hope you get the difference now too.
After my research and my discovery I went out in search of amazingly beautiful coconut oil and boy did I find it. Not only did I find oil, but I found this incredible organic, new age grocer called About Life. This place was heaven! I can’t even describe it. Next time i’m there I’ll just have to take a bazillion photos to relay how fantastic it was. What was even better, was that they had Sarah Wilson’s book up everywhere, so naturally they had everything from her book and recipes there.
BEST DISCOVERY EVER 🙂
Another great week and going into week three. Still strong and loving every minute.