One of the most entertaining bets to make with a Keys newcomer is about successfully opening a coconut. First off, before this sounds mean-spirited, it’s not. Let me come clean. My first time in Key West, I lost to the coconut.
While walking through the hotel parking lot I had noticed a beautiful, plump, green one. It beckoned. With a handy set of travel tools, I set to work. The pocket knife barely made a dent. Nor did the screwdriver stab. The hammer against the screwdriver, nope. Dropping it from a height. Nothing.
Those who have opened a brown, fuzzy coconut from the supermarket may be thinking, “It’s not that hard.” That is true for the store-bought ones. They are older and thinner skinned. The brown ones actually come from inside the green ones. As they age, the thick outer husk comes off, leaving the familiar, smaller and thinner-skinned version.
The juice from the green ones, however, is sweeter, and the meat softer. And while it is a dangerous and frustrating endeavor, opening your own fresh, found coconut and drinking from it is an immeasurable pleasure. Plus, the water from inside is good for hydration and hangover mitigation.
First, choose your coconut wisely. A short search should uncover one on the ground, eliminating the added danger of climbing a slippery tree with no branches. Check it for holes and chew marks. The browner they get, the greater the chance a critter has succeeded in beating you to the inside.
Most professional coconut openers use a machete. Machetes are sharp and dangerous and it is really easy to be seriously injured by attempting this. There are coconut stands through the Keys, where for a nominal fee anyone may buy a pre-machete’d coconut. That is the recommended method for enjoying one.
But, assuming you have machete skills and good healthcare, here’s how it’s done. Locate the bottom of the fruit. It’s the part with three lobes opposite to where it was attached to the tree. Slice down into each lobe, toward the end and away from your body. Use small cuts, working your way around the coconut with each slice. This will let you gradually take layers off the top until it forms a point. Carefully hack off the point, and voila! There should be a hole giving access to the juice.
Alternatively, you can use a large kitchen knife. Jab the sharp corner point of the blade that is closest to the handle into the bottom of the coconut. The idea is to make four incisions that cut a squarish opening there, which will then allow you to pry up the square like a lid. This is a more difficult method, but still more effective than running it over with your car.
Now that you’ve conquered the coconut, it’s time to test your personality type. Do you a) pour the juice into a glass? b) stick a few ice cubes and a straw into it? c) drink straight from the opening? d) mix it with rum?
Whichever you like. There is no wrong answer. But if you chose D, try these Conch coconut cocktail concoctions.
Pour a little smooth-sipping dark rum, such as Papa’s Pilar or Ron Abuelo Añejo into the coconut water. Add a few ice cubes and squeeze in one Key lime. Don’t forget to shake it a few times for a good mix.
In a glass, muddle an ample amount of mint leaves with lime juice and a spoonful of sugar or agave nectar. Pour that into the coconut along with some white rum and a handful of ice cubes. For a slightly more tropical flavor, add a touch of pineapple juice.
Blend pineapple juice, ice, white rum, fresh lime, orange juice and a small bit of freshly grated ginger. Pour and shake well to mix in the coconut water.
Blend banana, mango, strawberries and ice with fresh lime and white rum. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Pour gin, lime juice and ginger syrup into a the coconut, add ice and shake vigorously.
Dump in some ice, tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, a few thinly sliced jalapeño or Serrano peppers and a touch of sea salt.
Simply scotch, ice, coconut water.
Faux Health Nut
Make a smoothie from the juices of carrots, apples and oranges. Blend in banana and apple. Most importantly don’t forget the “faux” — we recommend a nice dark rum for the occasion.