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Making Your Own Coconut Milk

Married as I am to a woman who spent two years of her life in the Dominican Republic, I wouldn’t be able to hold my head up in my own house if I came home with pre-packaged coconut milk. It just wouldn’t be manly of me. So I make my own. It tastes great, makes the kitchen smell amazing, and puts me in touch with my inner Gilligan.

These days you can find good coconuts in most grocery stores. They should slosh when you shake them, indicating that there’s water inside, a sign of freshness. Just about every one you find in a store will come pre-scored, making it a lot easier to open. That’s a disappointment to Mrs. Pastry, who’s always looking for an opportunity to get her machete out and have a go at a chunky object. Me, I prefer to keep all my digits, so I go the safer route.

Now then, most instructions you find online call for striking the score of the nut with the back of a chef’s knife. That’s not for me either, since I keep my knives sharp, and prefer not to swing them with great force, even if I am trying to kill a monster nut.

I prefer this object: a heavy knife sharpener. This bad boy is made by F. Dick. It weighs probably 20 ounces and is solid as a rock — proving once again that when the Germans set out to make something, they make it. Enough said.

Pow. One good whack — with my other hand nowhere nearby — and the thing pops open. Actually I did the actually whacking out on the concrete patio, which is why the cutting board here is so clean. I lost all the coconut water, but then I don’t drink the stuff. If you’re into that, you can drill the coconut with an electric drill and drain the water out. Seems like a lot of bother to me for very little, but to each their own.

Once the nut has been cracked, a couple more good hits will shatter the halves. The meat easily pries off the interior shell with a butter knife. See that inner skin sticking to the meat? You can peel that off if you like. I don’t bother when I’m using the milk for baking or cooking, since color isn’t very important in those instances. If I were making mixed drinks with the milk, I’d apply the vegetable peeler, as the skin gives the milk a faint grey cast.

To make your milk place the pieces of coconut meat in a blender, and pour over it about 4 cups of hot water. You want it hot in order to melt the coconut oil, which goes liquid at about 76 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be boiling. Good hot water from the tap is enough. Immediately blend the mixture until the coconut is in tiny bits.

Next, place a sieve or colander over a medium bowl.

Lay over it a couple layers of cheese cloth.

Pour in the blended coconut…

…and press.

Then squeeze until every liquid drop you can manage is out of it.

And there, my friends, is homemade coconut milk. Is that not a beautiful thing?

8 thoughts on “Making Your Own Coconut Milk”

  1. About how much coconut milk will you get from one average-sized coconut?

    What’s the difference between coconut milk and cream of coconut?

    And for the wimps among us (which I most definitely am), can you suggest some good brands of coconut milk? I’ve bought stuff to use for baking that I thought tasted like … nothing. 🙁

    Thank you!

    1. Pretty much exactly a quart.

      Coconut cream is the thick layer of tiny particles of coconut and coconut oil that rises to the top when you make coconut milk. I should have shown that, now that you mention it, but I forgot! If you want to make your own cream of coconut, the best strategy is to chill the milk after the process outlined above, allow the top layer to firm, then skim it off. The more watery portion left below is still “coconut milk” and it works great for cooking or baking. I generally stir the milk and the cream together when I use coconut milk, so I get both the watery portion and the fatty portion into whatever I’m making.

      But I’ll tell you that the flavor is quite subtle regardless. Baked goods and/or stews made with coconut milk don’t have a particularly strong coconut flavor as we conceive of it. That said, they do have a unique flavor you don’t get from any other cooking/baking liquid.

      – J

  2. I haven’t cracked a coconut since my kids were small (30 years ago) and I used to make coconut cream pie with it. I used a cork screw to get to the water before taking the (un-scored) coconut and a hammer out to a handy piece of bedrock. Thanks for the memories. Maybe I’ll try it with the granddaughter in a couple of years when she’ll appreciate it!

    1. Coconut cream pie! What a great idea. I’ll have to add that to the project list.

      Thanks Cathy — and glad I cold stir a few good memories!

      Cheers,

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe,
    The coconut water in ripe coconuts is not much to write home about. Coconut water worth the work comes from green or young coconuts; the younger the coconut, the sweeter the water. Very young coconuts have coconut flesh like a jelly. This can be scraped off the inner shell with a spoon. By the time the coconut gets ripe, most of the water has been absorbed into the flesh, which has become firm, like the one you got. Those of us who do not have a fancy knife sharpener use a hammer; outside on the concrete of course. That fresh coconut milk makes an amazing savory Arroz Con Coco as well as sweet rice pudding.

    1. Melinda!

      Don’t say “arroz con coco” around here, or Mrs. Pastry will fall into a trance. It’s probably her favorite dish, and one of her fondest memories from her time in the D.R.. As you point out, it’s hard (really possible) to get the right kind of coconuts for that here in Kentucky, so she mostly has to reply on memories.

      One day maybe I’ll get there so I can try this famous dish!

      Cheers and thanks!

      – Joe

    1. You know Melinda, you may be on to something here.

      We may be having a happy Tuesday night!

      Cheers and thanks!

      – Joe

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