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How to Make Coconut Oil

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

It's funny when something you're so used to using suddenly becomes the "new big thing," as is the case with coconut oil. Having been born on an island where coconuts are so abundant you often have to mind where you stand, lest a coconut fall on your head, I never really thought about it as a "superfood." I also never saw coconut oil available for sale in the store—if you wanted coconut oil you made it at home, just like I saw my mother do many times.

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Nowadays, coconut oil is touted as a possible aid to improve cholesterol and glucose levels, and also can be used for hair and skin beauty treatments, This tutorial will teach you how to extract and make your own virgin coconut oil. As a bonus, this coconut oil can also be used as a pre-wash treatment for frizzy, unruly hair.

Coconut oil extracted this way is best consumed and used fresh, but if you need to store it, it is best done in the refrigerator, as it easily becomes stale at room temperature. The oil will solidify a bit in the refrigerator but will return to liquid once back at room temperature.

This recipe below will yield approximately 1/4 cup of oil, and it will take about an hour. You can easily make more at once by doubling the recipe.

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  1. Start with the freshly-extracted milk of two dry coconuts.

RELATED: How to Make Coconut Milk

2. Leave the coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight. The coconut "butter" will rise, separating from most of the liquid.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

3. Scoop out the hardened top and place in a small cast iron pot (cast iron is best to keep stable temperatures). Sieve the liquid for any remaining bits of fat. You can use the leftover liquid for cooking, as it retains a lot of the coconut flavor.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

4. Heat the coconut "butter" at the lowest possible heat setting. The idea is to heat it just enough for the water to evaporate. Virgin coconut oil is extracted at very low temperatures; high temperatures change its composition and properties.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

5. The "butter" will slowly melt. You can help it along by crushing the big pieces.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

6. As the water evaporates the mixture starts to resemble curdled milk when the solids begin separating from the oil.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

7. When the mixture has divided into solids and fat, push the solids to one side and scoop out as much of the oil as you can. Discard the solids. Pour the oil into a bottle with an airtight lid or seal.

Photograph by Clara Gonzalez

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