How to Make Fresh Coconut Milk
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Why should you make your own coconut milk when you can conveniently buy it in a can? First of all, most brands of canned coconut milk use Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the lining of the cans. BPA, a chemical that has been linked to cancer and infertility, can leach into the coconut milk and pose health risks to consumers. Although research studies on the dangers of BPA in canned foods still haven't been widely conducted, it may be wise to try to stay on the safe side and make your own coconut milk when you can. Secondly, some brands of canned coconut milk contain guar gum, which might upset the stomachs of those with sensitive digestive tracts. Thirdly, fresh coconut milk does taste better than the canned version. Its aroma is much nicer as well. And finally, let's not forget that it isn't at all difficult to make your own. If you can't find fresh coconuts, packaged coconut flakes are a good alternative.
***It will only take about 5 minutes if you use packaged coconut flakes. However, fresh coconut from a shell makes nicer coconut milk with a richer aroma.***
- 1 fresh coconut, or 1 1/2 cups packaged coconut flakes (unsweetened)
- 3 cups hot water, (should be pretty hot but not scalding)
***Fully ripened coconuts make the creamiest and most flavorful coconut milk. To check coconuts for freshness, make sure all three eyes are closed. You should also be able to hear plenty of liquid sloshing inside the shells. The more liquid, the fresher.***
How to Make Your Own Coconut Milk
- There are three "eyes" on a coconut. Find a soft one that you can easily puncture with a screwdriver or an ice pick. (If you are using packaged coconut flakes, skip to step 5.)
- Either discard the coconut water inside or serve as a beverage.
- Open the coconut shell with a hammer or a large knife. (See coconut opening tips below.)
- Use a paring knife to scrape the coconut flesh off the shell. It's okay if a little bit of the soft brownish part inside the shell comes off with it; it will later be strained anyway.
- Put half of the coconut flesh into a blender and process until coarsely chopped. Add half of the hot water and process again until the mixture is thick and creamy.
- Strain into a large bowl through a clean, moistened cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth to make sure you extract all the remaining liquid.
- Repeat the process with the rest of the coconut flesh and hot water.
- Fresh coconut milk, if not used immediately, should be covered and refrigerated. It should stay good for 5 - 7 days in a refrigerator and much longer in a freezer. Coconut milk that has been stored in a refrigerator will separate into 2 layers. The thicker top layer is called "coconut cream." The thinner bottom layer is what we know as "coconut milk."
Easy Way to Open a Coconut
Some people have no problem smashing a coconut open in one blow with a hammer or a knife. For some reason, though, I have never managed to do that. To make it easier for me, I usually put a coconut into an oven preheated to 350° F for about 10 - 15 minutes, then let it cool briefly before attempting to open it. The heat makes the shell crack slightly and therefore much easier to open.
Coconut Fun Facts
- Legend has it that the coconut was named by Spanish or Portuguese traders, who thought the three eyes on the coconut shell resembled the whimsically eerie face of a goblin. The word "coco" can be loosely translated as "grinning face."
- Although it contains the word "nut" in its title, the coconut is actually considered a fruit.
- Lounging under a coconut tree can be dangerous. Falling coconuts kill over a hundred people yearly, which is more than the number of people killed by sharks!
- In the U.S., May 8th is the National Coconut Cream Pie Day.