Coconut milk: it’s delicious, it’s nutritious and it’s expensive. At upwards of $4 a can at the local supermercado, chances are this superfood doesn’t fit very well into your meal budget – tragic, considering how perfect it is for sweetening coffee, livening up soups and thickening smoothies. Luckily raw coconuts only cost about a dollar a piece, and just one can yield the equivalent of 1.5 to two cans of their store-bought counterparts.
Plus, if you make your own milk then you won’t have to deal with preservatives like BPA or guar gum in the linings of the cans.
What you’ll need
*Blender (a food processor will also work but will yield smaller batches)
*Nut milk bag (If you live outside of San Jose you probably have no idea where to get this. A plastic coffee filter or cheesecloth will also work just fine)
*Knife with slightly rounded tip
*Mason jar or other storage receptacle
1. First you’ve got to crack that sucker open. Some people like to use hammers, cleavers or machetes for splitting – but I like to use a hard surface like a rock, or one of the concrete steps outside of my house. Now pretend the coconut is the earth, find the equator and slam it in the same spot until it cracks – then start turning the coconut (still hitting it along the equator) until it splits completely apart. (*NOTE* you want to use mature, ripened cocos for this, not green unripened pipas. You can pick them up at the Automercado for about a dollar).
Tips for selecting the best possible coconut:
*Find the cocos in your local grocery store or fresh food market (NOT the pipas in the refrigerator!). At Automercado you’ll usually find them below the bananas.
*Try to select one that is a healthy orange-brown hue. The darker the coco, the more likely it’s gone bad.
*Make sure there is a good bit of water sloshing around in that thing.
*If you buy multiple cocos at a time, separate them when you get home. I’ve noticed that much like avocados or bananas, if one goes bad it quickly spreads to the others.
2. Remove the meat. For first-time coconut connoisseurs, this will be no easy task. But don’t fret, it gets easier with time (just use a dull knife if you’re accident prone). The meat inside the shell should be firm and white, not mushy or slimy. If it’s green or smells funny throw it away. If the meat is stubborn, pop it in the microwave for a minute or two until the meat expands from the shell a bit (keep an eye on it, if you leave it in too long and you’ll get toasted coconut). Let it cool. Try again. Some shells are very resistant and require a few trips to the microwave. If all else fails, cut the meat out tiny square by tiny square. Patience is a virtue…
3. Blend, blend, blend. Now that the hardest part is over, cut the meat into small pieces. Put them in the blender or food processor with the water from the coconut and as much additional water as needed to blend smoothly. Blend, blend and blend, adding water as you go.
4. Strain. Carefully strain, squeezing if necessary. Be careful not to let pieces of coconut flakes fall into the finished product. If you like your coconut milk watered down, reuse the flakes with more water. If you like it thicker, add more fresh, unprocessed coconut.
5. Store. Put the milk in a mason jar, and take photos to show off to your friends on Facebook. Notice how the cream rises to the top — scrape it off if you want just the cream, or simply shake the jar to mix everything together again before use. If you’ve made more milk than you can consume before it goes bad, pour it into ice cube trays and stick it in the freezer. Then you can pull them out as needed in convenient single-serving sizes.
In addition to tasting divine, coconut has all kinds of health benefits. It contains lauric acid, a triglyceride known for its microbial properties and its ability to increase good HDL cholesterol. It is also rich in manganese and phosphorus, iron and magnesium – making it great for your bones. It is also very filling, and can help maintain blood sugar levels.
What to make with your freshly-made coconut milk:
Mashed sweet potatoes
Pulp: Save the coconut pulp and toast it to put over ice cream. Or make dark chocolate bark out of it by mixing it with a melted 80%+ cacao dark chocolate bar and putting it in the freezer. Or make coconut flour if you have a dehydrator.
Water: When opening a coconut, I like to catch the water and drink it instead of blending it for coconut milk – even though it’s not terribly sweet. There are probably some health benefits in there. Electrolytes, maybe?
Shell: If you manage to crack the shells evenly and cleanly remove the meat, the shell halves makes for practical change holders or ashtrays. Or tropical coconut bras. Use your imagination.
For more pics, see Genna Marie Robustelli’s website at http://www.gennamarie.com/do-it-yourself-coconut-milk/.