There are many Caribbean recipes that use coconut milk from delicious main courses, sweet desserts, and thirst quenching drinks. The amount of coconut milk you’ll get from a coconut depends on its size and ripeness. When choosing a coconut from the grocery store, look for one that is heavy for its size and that you can hear the water sloshing around inside it. This is a method I learned from from Carmen Valldejuli's book Cocina Criolla
Generally speaking, a large ripe coconut will yield about 1 pound of coconut meat, which produces about 5 cups grated coconut, which in turn makes about 1/2 cup of undiluted coconut milk.
How to Extract Undiluted Milk
- Review your recipe and crack open the number of coconuts you need for that recipe. Remember 1 large ripe coconut will yield about 1/2 cup of milk.
- Separate the white meat from the shell. A ripe coconut with water inside it will yield a soft, almost jelly textured meat that can be removed easily with a spoon. Some people use a knife, but I don’t recommend it unless you are experienced doing it that way. Scrape any brown skin that clings to the meat. Older coconuts are drier and more difficult to work with.
- Rinse and drain off the coconut meat. Grate it using a box grater or a food processor with the grating blade attached.
- Wrap the grated or processed meat in a muslin cloth, or cheesecloth. Squeeze out the milk over a bowl.
- Reserve the grated meat and set aside. Strain the extracted milk through a sieve. This is undiluted coconut milk.
How to Make Diluted Coconut Milk
- Measure the quantity of undiluted milk that you have and figure how much more you will need for your recipe. You will need to make up this difference with hot water.
- Add the hot water to the reserved coconut meat. You can let it soak for a minute if you like.
- Place the hot, wet, grated meat in a muslin cloth or cheesecloth. Squeeze out the milk over a bowl. Don’t throw away the used coconut meat. You can use it to make the sweetened coconut flakes recipe provided below.
- Strain the extracted milk through a sieve and add to the undiluted milk. Now you have diluted coconut milk to use in your recipes.
Storing Coconut Milk
You can store your coconut milk in the refrigerator for a few days.
Sweetened Coconut Flakes
You will need two ingredients: 5 cups coconut meat and 2 1/4 cups white sugar. Place both ingredients in a pot and cook rapidly over medium-high heat for 5 minutes then turn the heat down to medium and cook for another 10 minutes or until the coconut flakes are brown and crispy. Be careful not to burn the flakes.
Coconut Lore and Legends