Don’t coconut drops sound just delightful? Like something that falls from the sky at Willy Wonka’s factory and might be made by teeny tiny sugar dipped elves? Well, actually they are a Jamaican delicacy made from fresh coconut and sugar that are just perfect for the kind of homemade Christmas gift that makes people think you are magical yourself.
Made from just four ingredients they are incredibly easy to make but do involve using a hammer so if you have any festive angst needing worked out they have that bonus too making them the multi-tasking snack of the season.
They combine chopped fresh coconut, sugar, candied ginger and vanilla extract boiled together to create a coconutty cross between caramel and fudge that is sweet, sticky and slightly crumbly. Vegan and gluten free, a small portion of them is also fodmap friendly. They also got me to drink coffee for the first time all year because they are perfect with its slight bitterness. These have skills these sweets.
Coconut Drops (makes approx 25)
- 2 whole coconuts, flesh removed equivalent to about 350g
- 500g golden caster sugar
- 50g candied ginger
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
You need those dried brown coconuts for this recipe that all supermarkets seem to stock in this country but British people only buy at Halloween. They aren’t as fashionable as all other things coconut based right now, but let’s give them some love. And a damn good thrashing with a heavy object.
Start by prising or cutting away as much of the hairy coating from the coconut so you can see the three ‘eyes’ on the base of it more easily. Use a Philips head screwdriver or strong skewer to poke a hole in the one eye that gives when pierced and then drain the coconut water out of this opening. This is the stuff Vita Coco etc sells you for serious cash and you can drink this while you work.
Then set the coconut on a solid surface like a slate kitchen floor like mine and look for the line around the middle of it and tap that line hard and firmly with a hammer or full can of beans. Go slowly but firmly and it will split open almost like an old school Bounty ad and with ease.
Repeat with your second coconut. Place the two halves of each coconut split side down on a baking tray and put in a 160C oven for 15 minutes. This loosens the white meat inside the shell to make it easier to get out or you will be there all night poking folornly at the flesh and sobbing gently.
Allow to cool enough to handle and then use a small knife to cut and lever pieces of the flesh out. You will feel incredible if like me you got a whole half shell out in one piece, but it’s not necessary. Then cut each larger chunk of coconut into small cubes of about 1.5cm.
Put these coconut cubes to a large heavy based saucepan and chop the ginger in 0.5cm cubes and add to the coconut. Pour the sugar over it all and add about 100ml of cold water. Heat it all on a medium heat until the sugar starts to turn into a rich golden liquid.
If you have a sugar thermometer (and honestly they are worth the fiver on Ebay if you get the curved probe ones) cook it all, stirring regularly for about 25 minutes or until the thermometer hovers between 114C and and 116C for the next five minutes.
If you’re going old school and going by eye, you want to give all about 30 minutes, stirring steadily until the sugar is just turning from a sticky liquid to a slightly granular texture that looks like it would squish between your fingers. Obviously you don’t want to put your hands near molten sugar, so scoop a small amount of the sugar mix out and drop it into some cold water first and then squish it to this ‘soft ball’ stage.
Turn the heat down to the lowest possible as soon the mixture or temperature turns. Add a pinch of salt and the vanilla extract and stir them in. Use a spoon to drop the mix out onto lined or non stick baking trays. The extra little heat stops the mixture setting too fast as mine cooled so quickly when dropped that I lost the last two to crumbliness and they fell apart.
Allow to cool completely for about 30-45 minutes and then you are good to go. They look lovely and store well in small cellophane bags (I buy mine from Amazon or Ebay) and sealed with ribbon. I was a bit less stylish and gave mine to a vegan friend in some plastic takeaway containers and they lasted for a full week with the flavours mingling together even more.
I’m very glad she introduced me to these amazing simple but delicious sweets combining all the best ingredients from Jamaica for Christmas…