Coconut milk can add wonderful flavoring to many dishes found in African, Asian and Latino cooking.
During the summer months, coconuts are relatively inexpensive. In selecting a good coconut at the market or when you are at the grocery store, make sure you pick coconut with plenty of liquid in , by shaking it. A fresh coconut picked right from the tree is completely filled with the natural fruit juice and slowly, over time, the liquid evaporates. If you do not hear the sloshing of liquid in the coconut while shaking it, then this is an indication that the fruit has little or no liquid inside the shell……move on to the next one until you find one that you are satisfied with.
If you have difficulty opening a real coconut, I have found that using the oven method to extract the fruit and the liquid easily. See the method below.
Yields approximately 3 1/2 cups
3 1/2 cups lukewarm water
reserved coconut water*
1 one pound coconut, cracked, fruit removed and diced
*Coconut water is the liquid saved from the inside of the cavity of a coconut.
Extracting the Coconut Fruit and Water:
Preheat the oven to 400F with the oven rack placed in the center.
There are three (3) holes or “eyes” at the top of the coconut. One will be weaker than all the others. Place a towel underneath the coconut to prevent slippage. Poke each hole with the tip of a sturdy stainless steel skewer. When the skewer inserts easily in the hole, you’ve found the weakest link! Using a power drill, very carefully drill into the weak hole.
Drain the coconut water by using gravity by flipping the coconut over onto a cup or bowl and allow it to drain. While draining the water make sure sure you take the time to smell and to taste the water. If the coconut water smells sour and does not taste sweet, the coconut is inedible and should be discarded.
Reserve the coconut water and set aside.
Place the drained coconut on a shallow baking sheet and place it in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the hard outer shell is visibly cracked along the equator of the coconut. See the photo below. Remove the cracked coconut from the oven and allow it to cool completely. The soft meat of the coconut will easily separate from the hard outer shell, when pulled gently.
Peel the dark, thin skin from the coconut meat using a vegetable peeler. The coconut can now be sliced, diced, shredded or grated.
For the Milk:
Add the coconut water and lukewarm water into a food processor or blender. Keep the lid on the apparatus while the motor is running and slowly add the diced coconut pieces to the water until the mixture almost becomes a puree.
Strain the juice through a strainer over a bowl. Discard the strained coconut and pour the juice into a sterile glass jar. Cover with a lid and refrigerate until ready to use.