Thursday, February 17, 2011

Making Homemade Coconut Milk

I love to cook, that’s no secret. I enjoy cooking things that can be a challenge or that might be cheaper to buy readymade. But I am not a huge fan of complicated recipes with a hundred different ingredients. I like straightforward food.

I am not sure why I wanted to make coconut milk. I could have just as well bought a can and cracked it open. But that’s not my style. I want to know how it got in that can to begin with. It started with this beautiful post about making your own coconut milk from The Nourished Kitchen. Jenny makes everything looks rustic and beautiful. You can’t help but want to cook everything she blogs about.

But—one big caveat, I had no intentions of buying whole coconuts. Oh No—I have been down that road of heart ache before. One year on a family trip to Florida we bought a coconut for the heck of it. It was practically local! But after hammering and pounding and even putting a nail in the eyes, the thing wouldn’t budge. I think at least one person got a fat thumb from that unwilling coconut. No, my grocery store often sells coconuts cleaned and packaged. Probably not what you wanted to read about—you like my exploits of cooking that involve hammers and fat thumbs, but this will not be one of those. Sorry to those that feel I cut too many corners on this one. Hammers and kids under 4 don't mix too well.

I bought two containers of prepared coconuts (shell removed and skin partially removed). Each container was approximately $2.50. Jenny’s recipe calls for simply water and coconuts. I can totally handle this! Thing 1 was eager to help me make the coconut milk. He doesn’t nap anymore. He has gone through several napless phases. But about 2 weeks ago we noticed that on days when he would nap, he would have a very hard time going to bed that night. After a couple of days of trading nighttime peace for daytime peace, we got with it and called off the naps. So while Thing 2 rests, Thing 1 cooks or runs errands with mommy. And guess what DH does?? Haha, poor baby. He needs that nap or else he’d be a grump. Aren’t I a good wife?

My blender is only big enough to process one coconut at a time. The recipe calls for two coconuts and their coconut water (Oops! Prepared coconuts don’t come with water) and 3-4 cups of hot water. I brought a pan of water up to a boil and processed each coconut in the blender with 2 cups of water. I let Thing 1 press all the blender buttons which was thrilling for him. And when we were all done we had a big bowl full of coconutty slurry.

In batches, we passed the slurry through a strainer and saved the pulp. We placed the pulp into a muslin like cloth.

This is the same thin old burp cloth that I have referred to in other recipes requiring something like cheesecloth. I mean, if it ain’t broke! If I had this all to do over again I would have just strained it through the cloth instead of using a strainer. The strainer was actually pretty messy and we made a lot more messy dishes that way. But once the pulp was in the cloth I let Thing 1 squeeze away.

Then I poured our finished coconut milk into two cleaned and prepared kombucha bottles that happened to be lying around (because I have yet to produce a successful batch of kombucha). Those GT’s bottles are so awesome. And there are so many uses, the caps get so tight. I am glad that I have a dozen or so lying around the house.

After the milk was finished then I placed the spent pulp onto a foil lined pan and baked it in my oven at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes. I would have baked it longer, but I had had to go downstairs and fold 4 loads of laundry. Have I mentioned that I am a good wife? After it cooled I placed it in a small Tupperware and kept it in the fridge because it was still a little wet and I didn’t want it to get moldy.

I was so proud of my efforts that I was on pins and needles as to what to make with my delicious looking coconut milk!! And of course the first thing that came to mind? Pina Coladas. I am a once big fan of those slushy alcoholic sugar bombs that can be found in places like TGIFriday’s and crummy beach bars. No doubt the mixes are made with loads of HFCS and preservatives and pineapple and coconut flavoring. While I won’t have one of those again, I still have some fond memories of those more ignorant times in my life. And wow those things were awesome. I thought I would try making a little colada with my coconut milk. I had nothing to lose!

I took one cup of chunk pineapple that I froze and 2 cups of the coconut milk and one tablespoon of rapadura and I put them into my immersion blender. The result was pretty good. But I should have known about buying out of season pineapple. Will one of the local food gurus please come over to my house and slap my hand? I deserve it. Anyway, the kids really liked them. I made one for myself. Though sadly, they remained virgin. I thought about getting rum for it (It would have tasted a whole lot better!). But I never went out to get it. Next time I will wait for sweeter pineapple, but I still might add a touch more sugar or use honey. And I will definitely add rum. The liquor store does, after all, deliver. There is no excuse next time.

I still have one bottle, about two cups of coconut milk, left. The sky is the limit! I could use it for a good curry, or even better—a lactose free-almond crust-coconut cream pie. If I can get around to cooking it this weekend I will surely let you know about it!

This post is part of Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday


  1. If you ever feel the urge to go down the coconut route again, Alton Brown suggests poking holes in two of the eyes to drain them, and then baking at 350 for 15 minutes, which apparently causes the shell to crack and you can use a screw driver or oyster knife to remove it. Check out his episode on Cocnut Cake on you tube if you want to see his processing of whole coconuts. He even goes into making coconut milk, cream, and extract. The entire episode is rather interesting.

    Now that I think of it, I have probably made a comment directing you to Alton Brown several times. All I can say is that he seems to really favor home made and from scratch cooking.

  2. Haha Dianna. Yes, you have mentioned Alton Brown before. I am actually a huge AB fan. I started watching him in like 2000 on the food network...I actually think I might have seen that show!

  3. Fantastic!! I'm doing this over the weekend. Thanks for stopping by and posting on our carnival, Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health. Glad to "meet" you! Hope to see you every Friday :)

  4. If you can, get whole coconuts (taking off the thick outer layer is fine, but retaining the hard inner layer), so you can use the coconut water inside as well. Or, maybe you could try buying coconut water separately so you don't have to crack open the hard shell (Vita Coco is better than Zico, which has some kind of added flavor and isn't anywhere near as good.) Coconut water is incredibly delicious (and good for you!), so I'm sure having it (instead of just regular water) would make a difference.
    Kudos for you for the experiment, though! I've always wondered how this process worked.

  5. My DH can crack a coconut. I'll ask him how so I can tell you. He used to do it all the time in Mexico.


  6. I grew up in Hawaii, and it was never a problem there - you just need to have a machete (giant knife), a lava rock (cutting board), and some sand for the coconut water to drip into. In Manhattan, however, it just isn't quite the same!

  7. To get out coconut water, you just need to gouge out the "eyes" of the coconut: there are three little soft spots that make a kind of a triangle at the top. Take a sharp knife and whittle through two of them, just enough to let out the water through one while the air is allowed in through another. Once the water is out, you can move on to cutting open the coconut itself to get at the meat. (This is the part I haven't figured out how to do without a machete and a lava rock!)