Friday, September 25, 2009

Virgin Coconut Oil from Tropical Traditions

Not too long ago the Tropical Traditions company sent me a bottle of their Gold Label Standard organic virgin coconut oil. I was excited to try it. I'd never cooked with coconut oil before, but it could easily become a welcome guest in my kitchen.

Coconut oil is harvested from the meat of the coconut in much the same way olive oil is harvested from olives. You smash it to death in mill. While my Northern European ancestors relied more on animals for their oils and fats, in the form of butter and lard, coconut oil was a primary source of fat for tropical regions.

While most coconut oil is harvested from dried coconuts, virgin coconut oil is not. Instead, fresh coconuts are minimally processed, helping the oil retain a coconut flavor and smell. Virgin coconut oil is regarded as the highest quality coconut oil and is preferred for cooking.

Coconut oil is thought to be healthier than some other fat sources, possibly due to it's smaller molecular size and blending of both saturated and unsaturated fats. It is thought to help in weight management and preventing arteriosclerosis and heart disease. I was surprised to find that it has slightly less calories than other fats, 117 calories per tablespoon vs. 120 calories per tablespoon. Not a huge difference, I know, but it did surprise me.

Virgin coconut oil melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting is some unusual opportunities for the home cook. When I first got the bottle in mail, it was a liquid. After sitting in my air-conditioned house for awhile, it turned into a something like soft butter. Putting some into the refrigerator created a very hard, almost waxy lump. After letting it sit on my counter for a time, it softened up nicely.

Cooking with it has been a joy, except in one case. The literature said it was great as an oil for frying, but I wasn't happy with it that way. I like frying with high heat and I think it may have gotten burned, much like butter can. It gave the dish a “cheap” flavor I wasn't happy with. I can't say it was the oil's fault, for sure, because I never tried it again when frying.

What I used it most for was as a condiment. I often used it as a replacement for butter on my morning toast, or mixed some in my oatmeal. Added to a peanut butter and honey sandwich it was remarkable. Replacing the olive oil with coconut oil in a mustard vinaigrette was interesting. It lightened the flavor and added a nice variation to my staple dressing recipe. It became so hard in my refrigerator, though, I started keeping the dressing in the cupboard. I don't like waiting an hour to dress the salad. Because it has a higher saturated fat content than olive oil, I think it helped extend the dressing's shelf life, though, and I never had a problem with rancidity.

Where I truly fell in love with it was in baking. It gave a richness of flavor to the breads I baked that I simply didn't get with butter or cooking oil. It's no wonder to me, though. The coconut flavor is light and creamy, compared to the heavier flavors imparted by something like olive oil. I think I like it even better than butter!

The downside to my new love is that, like any woman who is lovely, virtuous, and of good report, she ain't cheap. Tropical Traditions Gold Label Standard retails at $37.00 a quart, making it a hard choice for most budget gourmets. That's two to three times the cost of Extra Virgin Olive oil at my grocer. Tropical Traditions does sell it for less, $27.00 a pint, but that's still pricey.

In spite of it's price, I'm curious about it as an effective food storage item. It's said that virgin coconut oil can last up to two years without going rancid, and you can buy it from Tropical Traditions in both 1 gallon, and 5 gallon HDPE plastic buckets, just like the ones I use to store flour, grains, and sugar in. They sell the one gallon buckets for $70.00, and the 5 gallon ones for $230.00. That's got to be better than powdered butter.

Tropical Traditions Green Label Organic Virgin Coconut oil is slightly cheaper, but not enough to make a real difference to my budget. It's machine processed, not made by hand. I don't know what the difference in taste is. Tropical Traditions will sell you dried coconut in bulk, too, and not just that shredded stuff. We're talking lovely flaked coconut. I need to think more about this for food storage, that's for sure.

If you can afford it, you'll want to check out Tropical Traditions Gold Label Standard Virgin Coconut Oil. It's an amazing oil, and I want to thank Tropical Traditions for letting me try it. I wish I could give this product a higher rating, but because of the price, I'm reluctant. But only because of the price. The flavor is incredible, it's uses are amazing. I'm going to have to pick up more of it one of these days. Just not today.

3 1/2 zucchinis


Angenette said...

I'd be curious to try it.

Krista said...

My cousin has been cooking with it for years and has begged me to try it. I have and love it. It is also a perfect lotion/moisturerizer for the skin. It has lots of health benefits. I bought some huge totes of it for my food storage as it will keep a lot longer than other oils. It's much more stable.

lululu said...

coconut oil! sounds interesting and flavorful!