Coconut is one amazing ingredient. It can be turned into flour, milk, oil, butter, or cream, and you can drink the water or simply eat the coconut as is.
It can be purchased fresh, shredded in packages or cans, sweetened or unsweetened, and used as an ingredient in soups, curries, smoothies, desserts, and more.
As its name applies, coconut cream is a thick and creamy substance made by steeping shredded coconut in hot coconut water combined with cream or milk and then cooled. It is used as a thickening agent for soups, curries, smoothies, or desserts.
Coconut cream is available in cans in the supermarket (usually in the international foods aisle), but it is actually easy to make your own at home with this recipe using freshly grated coconut.
- 2 1/2 ounces grated coconut (from 1 shelled coconut, water reserved)
- Heavy cream or whole milk (enough so when added to reserved coconut water it measures 1 quart)
Gather the ingredients.
Place the grated coconut in a heavy saucepan and cover with the coconut water-cream or milk mixture.
Slowly bring this to a boil, stirring often. Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan, and remove from the burner. Let cool to room temperature.
Place a sieve or strainer over a large bowl. Line it with a double layer of damp cheesecloth.
Pour the soaked coconut with its liquid into the lined strainer.
Lift the cheesecloth, pull the edges together, and squeeze out the coconut cream into the bowl.
The remaining coconut flesh can be air-dried and/or toasted for other uses.
Cover and refrigerate the coconut cream and use within five days.
- If you can't find or don't want to use a fresh coconut, you also can make coconut cream from canned or packaged unsweetened flaked coconut.
- If using canned or packaged flaked coconut, substitute 12 ounces of flaked coconut for the fresh coconut and use 1 quart of cream or milk. Proceed as directed above.
Which Is Which?
Although they can be used together in some recipes, do not confuse coconut milk, coconut water fresh from the coconut, or cream of coconut (a sweetened version of coconut cream used in mixed drinks and desserts) with coconut cream.
Is a Coconut a Fruit or a Nut or a Seed?
Coconut is one versatile food. But is it a fruit or nut? Technically, it's a one-seeded drupe or dry dupe. But for our purposes, it can be called a fruit, a nut, and a seed. And for nonpurists, it's safe to call it a cross between a fruit and a nut.
How to Open a Fresh Coconut
Heat the oven to 375 F. Place a folded towel in the bottom of a large bowl and set the coconut on top of it. Turn the coconut so the end with the three "eyes" is facing up. Use a screwdriver and meat mallet and hammer holes into two of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a clean container to drain the water. Store the water covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Place the coconut on a sheet pan and bake in the heated oven for 15 minutes. Remove. The coconut should have cracks in several places. Using a dull-bladed knife like a putty knife or oyster knife, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Peel the brown husk from the coconut meat with a serrated vegetable peeler. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry.
Grate the coconut pieces in a food processor or by hand. Refrigerate any unused grated fresh coconut in a covered container for two days. For longer storage, squeeze out any liquid from the grated coconut and place in a covered container in the freezer for up to four months. Make sure to leave a little head space in the container to allow for expansion of the coconut.