Supermarkets are flooded with innumerable varieties and types of cooking oils, yet to find one that is pure and unadulterated seems to be quite a challenging task. The tradition of making oil at home goes back to a time when our grandmothers would meticulously extract the silky liquid from nuts and seeds or use leftover malai to make real desi ghee at home which was preserved for cooking purposes. Over the years, due to commercialization and the need for convenience, most of us have switched to packaged factory-made refined oils that are often laden with emulsifiers, additives and hydrogenated fats.
Cooking oil is used to prepare almost every single meal of the day and therefore, the quality of the product you choose is of utmost importance. Your and your family’s health deserves nothing but the best and so, we’d like to take you back to the basics. We were quite excited to meet Sunitha Vijayan on her recent trip to Delhi. She belongs to the Allepey district in Kerala and prepares homemade coconut oil which she also sells. “7 years ago, I learned about the amazing health benefits of virgin coconut oil and I tried making it for myself. It turned out really well and was full of flavour. I even offered some to a friend whose daughter was suffering from dandruff and an itchy scalp and this pure coconut oil made fresh at home became her natural cure,” says Sunitha.
As you may know already, coconut oil is edible oil which is extracted from the kernels of mature coconuts. Virgin coconut oil differs from the ordinary coconut oil because of the way it is extracted and also in terms of its health benefits. The term ‘virgin’ essentially means that either no heat is applied during the process or it is subjected to very low heat. Virgin coconut oil has a strong taste and fragrance and a higher content of antioxidants, protein, vitamins and healthy fatty acids which may be lost during the industrial processes that regular coconut oil is subjected to.
Benefits of virgin coconut oil
Not just for cooking, coconut oil can be put to many more uses. It is medicinal and has several healing properties. Sunitha shares some of them as have been given below:
1. It is a good moisturizer, especially for new born babies because it is mild and fresh.
2. You should have a teaspoon of coconut oil before breakfast, first thing in the morning. It is good for your stomach and helps in boosting your digestion. It is also great for the Ayurveda practice of oil pulling that aids digestion.
3. It can help lowering bad cholesterol levels which most of the refines oils we use today have been found guilty of causing cholesterol problems.
4. It is a great beauty ingredient and can help in controlling dandruff and preventing acne.
5. Homemade coconut oil is a great remedy for mouth ulcers. Dab some coconut oil over the ulcers and let it stay overnight. You will feel relieved the next morning.
The process to make virgin coconut oil
9 to 10 coconuts will give you 3 liters of coconut milk, from which you can extract approximately 150 grams of coconut oil.
3 to 4 coconuts will give you 1 litre of coconut milk, from which 50 grams of oil can be extracted. This quantity is better suited to make virgin coconut oil at home, since fewer coconuts are required.
Sunitha shares that this method is called the ‘Hot Process’ and it has been traditionally used by our forefathers. There is no machinery involved, only simple every day kitchen tools and vessels. Also, no preservatives or additives are added to it. It is coconut oil in its purest form. The process is a bit time-consuming, but it is very easy.
Step 1: Extract the flesh from the coconut. Once you have collected the flesh from all the coconuts, grate it.
Step 2: Extract the coconut milk from the flesh by squeezing it with your hands in a muslin cloth. Keep a bowl below the cloth to collect the liquid. You can add very little hot water to it to make it easy to handle and squeeze out all the milk.
Step 3: Once the coconut milk has been extracted, sieve it using a muslin cloth to remove any impurities.
Step 4: Place the coconut milk in a brass vessel (known as Urli in Malayalam) and put it on fire. Let it cook for 2 to 3 hours, but make sure the heat is kept low.
Step 5: Keep stirring it every now and then till the milk becomes brownish in colour. However, be careful that it doesn’t burn as coconut milk has a very delicate texture.
Step 6: Once the milk becomes concentrated, remove it from the fire and let it cool down. Place the cooled thickened milk in a muslin cloth and squeeze out the oil. Collect it in a bowl and then store it in a can or a plastic bottle.
This homemade coconut oil can easily last for a year or at least 8 to 10 months. You should place it in an airtight container and don’t leave it out in the open else it can get contaminated and lose its qualities.