When I was living in the UK, I dreamt of a tropical island lifestyle where I could go outside, lop off a few coconuts from the trees and make my own coconut milk, whilst padding around in a bikini. That dream is now a reality! And while I'm not living on an island, Tulum is a tropical paradise where coconuts do grow on trees!
So, having made coconut milk hundreds of times over the years, I suppose I should share this simple recipe, with my new tropical twist!
To start, you will need to source some mature coconuts. Young green coconuts are fantastic for their water but usually don't contain much flesh at this stage so if you are buying from a shop, look for the smaller, brown coconuts. If you are lucky enough to have a coconut palm nearby, then you'll want to chose a coconut with a slightly more brown/yellow tinge to it, and you'll also need a machete to get into it!
There should still be a fair amount of liquid inside the mature coconuts, so give them a shake to check. If there is little/no liquid then it's likely they have been sitting on the shelves for weeks/months and could be bad.
To open the coconut, you will need a hammer and a screwdriver/sharp tool to first drain the liquid. Hammer the screwdriver into at least two of the three 'eyes' of the coconut, which will allow the liquid to flow. Drain this into a container and set aside. Now you can chose to either hammer the coconut open, or throw/drop it (take care so that no one around gets hit - including curious pets!).
The next stage is a bit of a pain so I suggest doing two or three coconuts at a time to get this fiddly stage out of the way and have some extra coconut meat to freeze. You will need to dig out the meat from the shell, and depending on your luck, you may have a coconut whose meat pops out easily, or you may have a challenge on your hands. There are several tools which claim to aid this process, one of which I recently purchased, 'The Coconut Tool' which seems to do a good job, but is not as super dooper as its description. A short blunt knife can also work well. Don't worry about the brown outer skin on the meat as the milk will be strained and you won't notice it.
Once you've removed all the meat, wash it well.
If you want to bypass this whole part of the process, you can also buy dessicated/shredded coconut but make sure it is free from preservatives/additives and sugar. Personally, I prefer my coconut as fresh as I can find it.
Next place the meat from one coconut into your blender and fill with pure, filtered water.
Note: If you do not have a high speed blender such as a Vitamix, you can use warm water. The heat from the water will help to release the oils in the coconut, creating more of a creamy coconut milk. A Vitamix or similar blender will actually heat the liquid slightly as it blends).
There really is not an accurate proportion to follow but to give you some idea, I put the meat from one coconut into my Vitamix and then fill to the top with water. Quite simply, the less water you use, the more creamy your milk will be, to the point that you will have thick coconut cream if you use very little water.
Blend for 1-2 minutes. Now you will need to strain the liquid through either a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or the best option, a nut milk bag. If you only have a strainer, I would seriously suggest investing in a nut milk bag as the quality of the milk is substantially better. If you are only using for smoothies, you probably won't notice so much, but if you are using the milk for other purposes, then it's not so fun having a grainy textured milk.
In the past, before I bought my nut milk bag, I experimented with various forms of clean material including nylon tights (pantyhose), t-shirts, and muslin! So feel free to get creative!
Squeeze the milk through whatever material you are using, and make sure you get as much liquid out from the residual coconut. This is your first batch and you can stick at this, or you can blend the solid matter again with more water for a slightly thinner milk.
And here's an added benefit of making coconut milk...what is left in the cloth/bag is actually coconut flour which is gluten free, great for baking, and way cheaper! The flour will be finer depending on how good your blender is. Lay it out and place in a warm area/dehydrator, or oven on a very low heat until completely dry. Store the flour in the fridge for up to a few days, or in the freezer for much longer. If left out, it will quickly become moldy.
Your coconut milk should last in the fridge for up to 5 days. Leftover meat which hasn't been used can be frozen, but I have yet to try freezing the actual milk.
If you've ever wanted to experiment with coconut kefir, and you have some good quality, active probiotics, you can add this to the milk and leave out on the counter for 6-24 hours (depending on the temperature of your environment). I will cover the subject of kefir properly in a separate post.
Enjoy a taste of the tropics with your coconut milk! You can use in smoothies, coffee/tea/chai, cereals, baking, soups, sauces, or even straight.
Coconut milk is not a low calorie beverage/option but contains extremely beneficial fats so please don't be fearful of this pure and natural drink. It contains high levels of manganese, plus moderate to high levels of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, folate and vitamin C. As well containing vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin, choline, pantothenic acid and calcium.
For more information about nutritional values of coconut milk, see: NutritionData