The 10 most important things one should learn and do whilst on Pitcairn
Unna a Coconut
During Darrin, Brandon and Zara’s stay on Pitcairn, and from the time of arrival, they insisted they master the art of unna’ing a coconut.
The coconut is an important ingredient used in many traditional Pitcairn recipes - dipping a ripe banana into the freshly grated flesh of a coconut makes it a dessert. Its extracted can be turned into butter, or squeezed into favourite dishes like, ‘Wild Beans’, ‘Fish in Milk’, ‘Potta’, ‘Mudda’ and ‘Tale’ - just to name a few.
The tool we use to grate the white flesh of the coconut is called the ‘Unna’, hence the phrase “…to Unna a coc’nut”.
The traditional ‘Unna’ was a multipurpose tool. Twice as long as a contemporary Unna, it had an extended platform at the rear of the seat. This was used to hold a flat stone we call the ‘Yolla’. Like the Unna, the ‘Yolla’ is also a form of grater. However, the Unna and Yolla produce very different results. The Unna, used to grate coconut produces a coarse grating. The Yolla is used to grate sweet potato, yam and green banana producing a very sludgy paste.
The Yolla stone is of a particular type, the best found close to Bounty Bay. It is relatively soft, very porous and much pitted. The pitting is sharp which gives it its natural grating properties. To make a Yolla, a selected stone is soaked in water for many days which further softens it, after which it can be easily carved and shaped into a slab.
Ideal as a grater
Over time the extended rear platform holding the Yolla was dropped from the Unna’s design. Perhaps because of the contraptions overall length, its bulk, and heavy weight which made it awkward to move about.
Today’s ‘Unna’ is simply a seat with an iron bar attached which protrudes from one end. The grater is the bar’s leading edge which is sharpened with fine serrations. It’s this that produces the gratings.
protuding sharpened bar.
which prodes the gratings
An old metal file makes an excellent bar. Heat one end in a fire to soften, flatten to splay its edge and then cut in the serrations. Drop in water to cool and re-harden.
At first, one might think it shouldn’t be too hard a task to Unna a coconut.
However, as Darrin and Brandon discovered it took several dozen coconuts and many, many tries to get it right.
To Unna is one thing, to select the right coconut is another.
this one, that one?
Darrin spends many hours deciding on the right nut to use.
Which palm the coconut has come from, its colour – yellow through to brown, its size – big or little, when shaken – does it contain liquid or not.
Much goes into deciding the best of the best.
After deliberations Brandon takes over. His task is to remove the outer husk of the coconut.
To do this we use a ‘Digger’. The ‘Digger’ is simply an iron bar in the ground. Its top edge is splayed and sharpened, so it easily penetrates the hard husk.
With force, drop and stab the coconut into the Digger. Lever it to peel off a section of husk.
Continue around the rest of the coconut until the entire husk is removed. Easy, peasy.
Not for Brandon though.
After dropping, throwing, banging, levering, twisting, jimmying, chucking, winding and yelling, he’s yet to get off any husk –
…“%#@%#* - This isn’t working. What do I do now?”
Remain persistent. Once you get the action right a husk can easily be removed in 2 to 3 pieces.
Brandon remained persistent and eventually produced a bare nut.
… Although there was shards of husk from one end of the yard to the other.
Taking the nut, Darrin uses an axe to slowly tap around the outer shell. This needn’t take a lot of force, nor does the axe need to be sharp. Any hard blunt object will do the job just as well.
At some point, tapping your way around the nut, it will simply split.
Ok – position yourself on the Unna with a bowl underside.
Placing a half nut over the Unna bar, slowly grind backwards and forwards, at the same time slowly turning the nut eventually completing a whole 360 degree turn.
Continue this action until all the flesh is removed.
Viola – a bowl full of grated coconut.
Darrin drinks a glass of coc'nut milk
Darrin wisely collected the coconuts watery content when cracking open the nuts. It makes for a great thirst quencher during the entire process.
CHEERS - To fellow masters of the Unna!