January 21, 2012
Passing through the market one day in San Cristobal, I noticed several young men pushing wheel barrows with freshly peeled coconuts in plastic bags that came with a little package of chile and salt and a section of lime. They would pierce through the bag and the coconut with a knife and pop in a straw. The chile and lime were for sprinkling on the coconut meat later to eat. These were not super young coconuts; the meat was relatively firm, but not as firm as a mature coconut or gelatinous like a very young coconut. After drinking the water, I took the coconut home to try making coconut bacon using Mexican ingredients. I did not want to use smoke flavoring to get the smokey flavor, but the smoked chipotles pulled off the job outstandingly and added a little extra bite. For the sweet, I chose piloncillo, which is a flavorful natural brown sugar. Soy sauce is not exactly Mexican, but readily available here with a lot of Asian immigrants in the country. There seemed to be enough oil in the coconut meat that the baking pan only needed a cursory greasing with coconut oil to avoid sticking. This marinade is enough for several coconuts and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. The coconut bacon made an excellent BLT on La Casa del Pan bread with our homemade vegan mayo and avocado.
Mexican Coconut Bacon
Tocino de Coco Mexicano
Makes 3 to 4 cups, depending on the size and maturity of the coconut
1 green or young coconut (coco tierno), shelled and peeled (mine was peeled in the market)
2 small chipotles
1/4 cup of the chile soaking water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed
4 tablespoons piloncillo, grated and packed (or maple syrup or packed brown sugar)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Get out your machete and open the coconut and drain the water into a glass. Drink it. This is one of natures’ pure electrolyte solutions, high in potassium. There are a number of tutorials on the web for opening a coconut.
Peel the coconut if it is not already peeled. This can be a time consuming job done with a knife. Cut off any brown skin that remains. Cut the coconut into quarters and then into very thin strips, 1/32-inch.
Soak the chipotle chiles in hot water to cover for 5 minutes. Remove and slit open the chiles to remove the seeds and membranes.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Process the soy sauce, chipotles, water, sweetener, garlic, and salt in a blender. Marinate the coconut strips in the marinade for 5 minutes, and drain in a colander. Spread the coconut oil on a baking sheet and arrange the marinated strips in one layer. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking every 5 to 10 minutes to turn the strips so they don’t burn and removing any that a starting to darken. Drain the bacon on absorbent paper. Store in a container the refrigerator.