“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.” Dustin Hoffman, American actor (1937 – )
There is no denying that I love coconut. It is naturally sweet, has a generous amount of protein, iron, calcium and manganese, and is strongly anti-inflammatory. Yes, it is high in fat, but we’ll get to that later.
Coconut milk is the easiest milk to make at home and is a LOT cheaper than buying canned. The coconut milk you make at home will have a somewhat thinner consistency because you won’t be adding the thickeners that almost all canned coconut milk has – but it will have a silkier texture and a significantly fresher flavor.
On a recent visit, we received an inspirational talk about homemade coconut milk from my Aunt Cheryl, who is married to Dean, from Trinidad. Dean always makes his own fresh coconut milk. Since he is in Toronto and we’re here in Colorado Springs, we hadn’t had his good influence to prod us into this sooner. We first tried making our own coconut milk just a few weeks ago and were enamored with the results. We used dried coconut (unsweetened) first and it was very good. Then, we tried it using fresh coconut and were blown away with how wonderful it was.
True, coconut milk is high in fat (57g per cup – about 11 teaspoons!), but then, that allows us to practice moderation, right? In case you are wondering, the canned variety comes in at around 48g of fat per cup, so slightly less than in homemade – but then, you can always water yours down and add thickeners like the canning companies do (often thickened with guar gum, which is the ground endosperm of the guar bean ).
Cost comparison: 1 can of coconut milk (1 ½ cups) costs about $2.29. From dried coconut, it cost us 75¢ to make 3 cups. From fresh coconut, it cost us $2 to make 7 cups (equivalent to 4 ½ cans). The coconut flour, made from the pulp left in the milk-making process, is a bonus. In the store, it costs about $8/pound.
Goodbye, cans. We won’t be seeing you again.
This is also a great project to do with the kids on a hot summer day. Outside of soaking if you are using dried coconut, this only takes about 15 minutes of effort.
From dried coconut – makes 3 cups: Measure 1 cup dried, shredded coconut (unsweetened) into a blender or food processor container with 3 cups of very hot water. Allow to rest for an hour, then give it a whirl, starting out slowly and building up to the highest speed your equipment allows. It takes about 3 minutes at highest speed, so watch for overheating. You might want to do this 30 seconds at a time, with a couple of minutes rest in between if your machine starts getting hot. The coconut will be so fine, you can’t see it suspended in the liquid. Then, proceed as with step 2, below.
From fresh coconut – makes 7 cups: First, make sure the coconut you are buying is juicy by shaking it to hear that there is ample coconut water in the middle. If you don’t hear sloshing, don’t buy it.
When you get it home, puncture the “eyes” of the coconut with a screwdriver and collect the coconut water as it drains out. Split the coconut (my best tool for this is whacking it with the side of a heavy wrench – more efficient than a hammer or smashing on the sidewalk) and pry out the coconut meat with a table knife. You do not need to peel off the brown skin. Place the pieces of the meat in the blender and add 6 cups of very hot water. Throw in the collected coconut water if you don’t want to drink it as is. Process on highest speed (see overheating caution above) for about 3 minutes.
Pour the coconut milk through three layers of cheesecloth into a pitcher of appropriate size. You will have to stop periodically and remove the pulp. Squeeze the pulp over the pitcher to remove as much of the milk as possible and place the pulp into a separate bowl. After all the milk has gone through the cheesecloth, run it through a second time to catch any residual bits of coconut that might still be present. Keep the milk in a covered container in the refrigerator and shake vigorously before using (it separates).
Preheat the oven to 250° F. Spread the squeezed coconut pulp out on a dry baking sheet. Break chunks up with a fork and distribute evenly. Place in the oven for 1 hour, stirring once after 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. What you have now is desiccated coconut and it can be used in recipes like this, if you wish. You can make it into a finer flour by running it through a spice grinder or dry blender. Use this flour to replace 3 tablespoons per cup of the flour in cookies, quick breads, or pancakes to add a little coconut flavor and extra fiber. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Now, go treat yourself!
Coconut Mango Smoothie or Ice Lollies
Makes 2 servings
Time: 3 minutes
1 whole fresh mango
½ cup fresh coconut milk
2 cups chopped ice (4 cups large cubes)
Peel the mango and cut the meat off the seed. Process the mango meat and coconut milk on high to puree, then add the ice and process until smooth and creamy. The natural sugars in the mango and the coconut milk will provide all the sweetness you need.
Leftovers? Pour the smoothie mixture into a popsicle mold, insert holder, and freeze.
Or, maybe some Coconut Curry Sauce from page 115 in the Mosaic Meals cookbook. And then, there’s Cashew Korma from an earlier post… Just look for me in coconut heaven. I’ll be in the choir singing about knocking off a lovely bunch.