Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fresh Coconut Milk Wanted (Cans Need Not Apply)

I'm an over achiever - this comes to no surprise to those who know me. So of course, with a Thai curry planned for dinner on Saturday night, I decided to try making the coconut milk for the recipe from scratch. I enjoy these sometimes frustrating ingredient experiments, as I never know what I'll learn, and once I explore the nitty gritty I always decide whether or not the effort was worth the outcome. The verdict on this (in the manner I went about it at least): a resounding no way!

Fresh Coconut Milk & Cream

source: Curry Cuisine

Ingredients

  • Whole, Fresh Brown Coconut - Each yields roughly 1 2/3 cups of milk, or 1 cup of coconut cream
  • Equal parts hot water

Preparation

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke a hole through one of the three eyes on the end of the coconut (only one will be soft enough to do this). I used a metal probe thermometer to do this.
  3. Shake the coconut water out through the hole into a non-metal bowl.
  4. Place the coconut(s) on a sheet pan and roast in the oven until the shells begin to crack.
  5. Remove the coconuts from the oven, and set aside to slightly cool for a couple of minutes.
  6. Using an oven mitt or potholder, hold the hot coconut firmly in the palm of your hand, and using the back (dull) side of a meat cleaver, firmly whack the coconut. Repeat this step, turning the coconut each time, until the shell cracks open.
  7. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pry the warm meat of the coconut away from its hard shell. Some pieces will come out clean, others will still have a soft brown skin attached. Use a vegetable peeler to remove this layer.
  8. Place the coconut pieces in a food processor, and begin to blend, adding hot water to the processor as it's breaking down the coconut. The coconut should be blended well and as smooth as the food processor can get it (it will resemble a coarse ricotta cheese).
  9. In batches, scoop the mixture from the food processor into a couple of layers of cheesecloth and squeeze into a non-metal bowl.
    Discard the remaining coconut material. We considered baking with the left over, but after tasting it, realized that the process of making the milk depleted the flavor of the coconut.
  10. The milk will begin to separate over time, with the coconut cream rising to the top. You could skim off the cream and use the two variations separately, but I used the milk as "squeezed".

To see how to crack a coconut, watch:


What I'd Change Next Time:

This was a lot of tedious work and for use in a cooked dish, I will definitely stick with the cans of coconut milk and the coconut cream we buy in tetra packs. For raw or fresh uses, I'd consider doing this again, but will definitely forgo the tedious processing and squeezing and make use of our Breville Juicer, which would make short work of the coconut meat.