On Tuesday, I walked by a brown coconut at the grocery store. It stopped me in my tracks. Homemade coconut milk. The coconut felt heavy as if it held the very ocean it sailed across in its shell. Its history in water. I picked up a few more from the box, tested their weight, shook them for water content, and smelled them to make sure they hadn’t gone rancid on the ride over.
Buttercup squash, beets, turnips should have been on my mind, but they weren’t. All I could think about was coconut—cracking the fruit open, draining the water, eating a few white scraps, then blending hot water with the rest to make milk.
As much as I like root vegetables, I like foreign fruits even more, especially coconuts.
I went home and cracked open my first coconut.
When it comes to coconut cravings, I don’t mess around.
To crack open a coconut, you don’t need fancy equipment but you will need a few household tools and a steady hand:
corkscrew or screwdriver and hammer
large cleaver or chef’s knife (blunt edge only)
small paring knife (preferably an inexpensive one with a flexible blade)
jar (to drain the coconut water in)
The process is straightforward: make two holes in the indents on top, drain the coconut water, then crack the coconut open with the blunt edge of a cleaver or chef’s knife, remove the fruit from the hard shell.
Then to make coconut milk: chop the white meat into small chunks,
blend with water for 2 minutes, steep for 30 minutes, strain the milk from the pulp, and
Homemade Coconut Milk
Yield about 1 quart
1 brown coconut (about 4 cups fresh coconut meat)
4 cups hot water
Use a corkscrew or screwdriver and hammer to poke two holes in the eyes of the coconut. Drain the coconut water into a jar, strain, and drink or reserve for making the coconut milk. Hold the coconut in one hand and a cleaver or chef’s knife in the other. With the blunt side of the knife, carefully tap the coconut around its center (the knife should be parallel to the eyes of the coconut), turning as you go. Don’t try to crack it open in one blow, rather turn the coconut in small rotations and tap around the center until it cracks open. Use an inexpensive paring knife and gently scoop the white part of the coconut from the shell; be sure to remove all the shell and outer skin from the white part of the fruit.
Cut the coconut into 1-inch chunks. Place the coconut and water in a high speed blender (you can also add some of the coconut water) and process on high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Let the milk steep for 30 minutes. Strain the coconut milk through a fine mesh strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Squeeze the pulp as you go to extract as much milk as possible. Use the pulp in baking recipes; smear it on your face and body; or compost it. Refrigerate the milk in a covered glass jar and use within 5 days. Use the milk in your favorite sauces, soups, curries, or desserts. I like to reserve half the milk for a recipe and freeze the rest.